GLOBAL ECONOMY

Mexican avocado growers strike, sending U.S. prices soaring

A woman prepares a bag of avocados in Mexico City, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016.

A woman prepares a bag of avocados in Mexico City, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016.  (ap)

Avocado imports from Mexico, which tend to increase this time of year, have plunged, sending U.S. prices for the fruit soaring.

The reason is a strike by Mexican growers, who are holding back avocados and demanding higher pay. The drop in supply of avocados has driven wholesale prices up to four times what they normally are in some areas, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

As the main importer of avocados to the United States, Mexican suppliers have substantial clout.

Phil Henry, president of Henry Avocado Co., a grower and importer in Escondido, California, told the Chronicle, "Most of the growers in Mexico have wanted to harvest, but it's been a small minority of growers that have wanted to exert this work stoppage," Henry said.

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In October of last year, Mexico sent 45 million lbs. of avocados each week to the U.S.. This October, it was sending only around 13 million lbs., the Chronicle reported.

“There has been an extreme slowdown of harvest and in some cases a stoppage of harvest,” Henry said. “Of course, it’s also hurting the workers, the harvesters, the people that do the packing and truck drivers going north.”

Some in the restaurant business are determined to weather the avocado storm.

"I would absorb the cost to the point it didn't make financial sense, and then of course edit the menu," Steve Palmer, the managing partner of the Indigo Road Restaurant Group in Charleston, S.C., told the Charleston Post and Courier.

Some suspect that drug cartels may be playing a role in the import stoppage, noting that they control some growers.

Likelly to be hardest hit are restaurants and small retailers, said Sarah Garcia, co-owner of Pacific Produce, a South San Francisco distributor.

“I think this is more severe than the lime situation,” she told the chronicle, recalling a lime shortage that occurred in 2014, “because we buy so many avocados in this country.”

Major supermarket chains are not expected to experience much of an impact. They have contracts, the newspaper said, that ensure they’ll get their supply.

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