The drought in California is a big problem for the avocado industry. Photo: Stephen Morris/Stocksy
When rumors of a potential guacamole shortage began swirling in 2014, some Chipotle patrons at a Manhattan location could barely keep it together. "I can’t have my chips and guac without guacamole!” one cried to this Yahoo Food editor, who was promptly bounced from the establishment for asking too many questions. Avocados (and lack thereof) are clearly a touchy subject.
That much is clear from a new New York magazine article that breaks down the struggles faced by the emerald-hued fruit (yes, fruit). Last year, California sold 2.5 billion pounds of avocados, but the ongoing drought plaguing the state is taking a serious toll on the industry. Decades ago, avocado farming cost roughly $72 per acre-foot of water, which translates to about 326,000 gallons. Today, the same amount of water costs about whopping $1,200, and tomorrow it might be even pricier: “The price I heard on that is $2,600 an acre-foot,” avocado expert Charley Wolk told the publication. “I just don’t see how you can make that work.”
But should the drought continue, the article suggests, avocados won’t disappear from marketplaces—they’ll just get more expensive:
“If the most dire climate predictions for California—those that foresee, for example, a 30-, 40-, even a 100-year drought—prove prescient, the avocado is not the agricultural product most likely to disappear from the state. (That would be dairy, which is incredibly water-intensive and not geographically dependent.) It’s not the food most likely to be permanently priced out of your diet. (That would be almonds — 98 percent of which come from California, and the wholesale price of which has more than tripled since 2001.) But if you draw a Venn Diagram with ‘West Coast drought-affected agriculture’ in one circle and ‘East Coast foodie-fueled manias’ in the other, smack-dab in the ovoid intersection of these circles would sit the avocado. Having only just recently become a tattoo-worthy symbol of foodie obsessiveness, the avocado would become the last symbol of a pre-climate change era, when we could reasonably expect anything, from anywhere, at anytime, to appear on our plate.”
As the article states, not all of the avocados Americans consume come from California — plenty hail from Mexico and Chile — but avocado industries abroad have their own troubles ranging from water shortages to cartel violence. And these issues certainly would cast a pall over the next-level guacamole bar you planned for your annual Cinco de Mayo party, or put a damper on your breakfast of curry oil-drizzled avocado toast.
Worth noting: American consumption of the avocado has risen significantly in the last 15 years. In 1999, we consumed 1.1 pounds per capita, and in 2014, we ate 5.8 pounds per each, reports NYMag.
All we can say is that we hope the California drought ends, and soon. Your guacamole may depend on it.
More stores for avocado obsessives:
Would you still buy avocados if they were more expensive?