A strike in Mexico and the drought in California have led to a shortage of one of the state's most popular foods: the avocado.
Lovers of the green fruit can't get enough — even when they hear the words "guac is extra" — so if you're starting to wonder how to get your fix during the shortage, it depends where you go. While grocers have struggled to stock their shelves with avocados, restaurant owners seem to be doing fine.
Strikes in the Mexican state Michoacán have been the primary reason for the low number of avocado imports. Field workers who harvest the fruit have been on strike over low wages, and growers and pickers plan to increase the price of the fruit. According to Time, their efforts have caused the "biggest disruption to avocado imports in history."
Only 7 percent of avocados consumed in the U.S. are produced in California, but the state's drought and high temperatures have also contributed to the dearth. According to produce buyer Cruz Sandoval, Mexican growers are choosing to "hold out for more money because the California season is running dry, and there's no other sources."
Los Angeles grocery outlets attribute up to 90 percent of their avocado supply to Mexican growers and some have no large avocados in stock. The produce departments place an order for the fruit but have no control over what they get and when they get it. Grocers are worried that supply will run low and that prices will spike as a result.
Roberto Dieguev, assistant produce manager at Whole Foods, expressed concern for the future of the store's avocado sales.
"We have some avocados in stock now, but we suffered a shortage all last week. We really don't know when we might run out again," Dieguev said.
This Whole Foods store is completely out of organic avocados and only receives conventional avocados from Mexico.
"Our customer base prefers organic, and we don't have any to sell at the moment," Dieguev said. "There isn't a real substitute for avocados so it'll be hard to adjust to a long-term shortage."
Other supermarkets, like Ralphs, have adjusted to the shortage by hiking up the prices for small and large avocados. Joel Chin, produce manager at the Ralphs store on West Ninth Street, said that the price for large avocados will "certainly increase" once they are in stock again.
"Some places are selling them for up to $5.49 a piece. We normally sell for $2.99 a piece, but that price will have to go up," Chin said. Ralphs also expects to raise the costs of their regular avocados by at least a third of the usual $1.79 price.
While the shortage is affecting grocery outlets, consumers shouldn't have a problem ordering a side of guac in restaurants. Local eateries like El Unico and La Taquiza aren't experiencing any issues with their fresh avocado supply. USC campus food spots like Seeds and Verde are also serving up the green fruit with ease.
Avocado-lovers feared that national restaurant chains like Chipotle would raise the price on their guacamole due to the crisis, but a rep from Chipotle said that they too have been unaffected by the supply disruptions.
"We do not plan to raise prices for guacamole and [we] have not incurred any supply disruptions," said Chris Arnold, a spokesperson for Chipotle.
Distributors say the avocado strikes have ended, but the effects of the shortage will last until avocado distribution normalizes and prices are driven down.
Reach Staff Reporter Judith Nwandu here.