Bad news, avocado lovers. Your favorite fleshy, fatty fruit might soon be harder to come by.
The avocado has fallen on some hard times recently due to a confluence of factors from cartel violence to climate change. And while the delicious fruit won't entirely disappear from the grocery aisle any time soon, you can certainly expect the prices to jump up in the next few months.
Why is this happening? The ongoing, historic drought in California has a big part to play in the impending avocado shortage. The state is responsible for 95% of the avocados grown in the U.S., and supports a $435 million industry. But avocados are a water-intensive fruit — it takes 74 gallons of water to produce just one pound — and for many California farmers, it makes more financial sense to let their fields go fallow than to invest precious resources into the expensive crops. And it's only expected to get worse from here on out: Climate change research indicates that rising temperatures will cause California avocado production to drop as much as 40% over the next 30 years.
As for international avocado production, things aren't looking much better. In addition to climate change, avocado farmers in Mexico are also having to deal with the rise of cartel activity. Much like the great lime shortage of 2014, gangs are taking advantage of these lucrative crops by extorting farmers and threatening to disrupt the $1 billion avocado trade between Mexico and the U.S.
On a broader level, this avocado crisis is ultimately our own doing. In October, National Geographic asserted that the avocado will soon have a "quinoa moment." Quinoa was a relatively unknown food item that rapidly became so popular that its demand far outstripped its production, which wreaked havoc on small, agricultural economies (to the point that quinoa farmers today can't even afford to keep their own crops).
While avocados have been sought after for a while, they are now more popular than ever. And that means bad news for both farmers and consumers: Farmers will have to compete for ever-scarce land and water to keep up with the demand, while consumers will have to fork over more and more money to get their favorite fruit.
Earlier in the year, Chipotle started a social media frenzy by floating the possibility of taking its trademark guacamole off the menu should the avocado prices keep rising due to climate change. The idea seemed like a far-fetched contingency plan then. But as the prices keep going up, that possibility becomes more and more likely.