The tasty avocado helps us make our delicious guacamole at El Chubby’s Fresh Mexican Grill in Aurora. But the recent avocado shortage highlights the political and trade history of the avocado. You probably didn’t know that this green fruit’s popularity is in some ways attributed to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It’s true. Plus, what’s better than fresh guacamole with your Mexican food, seriously? It absolutely makes our Taco Salad a mouthwatering treat for the your taste buds.
According to an Orange County Register article, the trade agreement in 1994 with the US, Canada, and Mexico brought the avocado out of obscurity and into the restaurants and homes of many Americans. Today, the Mexican avocado imports have reached roughly a $1 billion a year. That’s a lot of avocados.
So why are recent avocado prices so high and avocados hard to come by?
Well, our nation’s biggest producer of avocados is California. But California growers had a hard growing season because of the drought. Of course, Mexico would usually be able to fill that supply but their growers have suffered from labor problems. The combination of these two circumstances created a real shortfall in avocados recently. The shortage created an increase in prices and saw Mexican restaurants like ours scrambling to find the green fruit that is the main ingredient to guacamole and one of our customer’s favorites.
It was only about twenty-five years ago that the avocado was almost unknown in American households. The U.S. received no imports of avocados because back in 1914 Mexican avocados were banned from being imported into the United States. Mostly this was due to American fears that pest infestations from Mexico fruit would hurt U.S. growers.
But in 1994, eighty years after the ban, and against the protests of the California avocado producers, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) opened the doors for Mexico, the world’s biggest producer of avocados, to import the fruit into the U.S.
According to an Orange County Register article, starting in 1997, Mexican imports of avocados were allowed in the northeastern states, but only during the winter months. This was limited to the winter with the idea that it would keep any potential pests away from avocado groves in California. Imported avocados sales increased until it was nationwide by 2007. Partly due to new technologies that could control the pests and the popularity of the healthy fats of avocados. In addition, Americans were discovering the wonderful taste of avocados. So now NAFTA allowed avocados to become a mainstream American food.
Of course, the California avocado growers were worried when Mexican avocado imports were allowed in. They feared prices of their avocados would fall. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the increased supply actually increased the appeal of the avocado and it became more popular and so, more in demand. This can be confirmed by looking at the numbers. Before NAFTA, Americans consumed, on average, about a 1 1/2 pounds of avocados a year. But now it’s almost 7 pounds. Believe it or not, during the last year, 2 billion, yes that’s billion, pounds of avocados were eaten by Americans. That’s a quadruple jump from the avocado consumption in 2000. Yet prices remained fairly stable. Mexican imports nearly three-quarters of the avocados sold in the U.S.
Today it is unknown if the recent increase in prices from the drought conditions and labor unrest, and the high demand for avocados will remain high as well? Or will the popularity of the avocado decline because of the cost?
Our delicious guacamole at El Chubby’s Fresh Mexican Grill in Aurora is still a customer favorite. From what we can see, the American love affair with the guacamole isn’t slowing down, and its all due to the political and trade history of the avocado. Come in soon and taste our fresh, made-to-order, authentic Mexican food and don’t forget the guacamole!