Climate change may be shrinking avocados

Climate change may be shrinking avocados

 In the summer of 2013, however, hundreds of thousands of trees in Southern California had the tiniest Hass avocados in local memory — some just the size of a golf ball — due to low winter rainfall in early 2012, erratic bee activity during the late spring bloom period, and lots of unseasonably cool and cloudy weather in the year since.

In the summer of 2013, however, hundreds of thousands of trees in Southern California had the tiniest Hass avocados in local memory — some just the size of a golf ball — due to low winter rainfall in early 2012, erratic bee activity during the late spring bloom period, and lots of unseasonably cool and cloudy weather in the year since.

by Mary Budinger — 

The food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill is keeping a close eye on its ability to continue serving guacamole dip due to increasing avocado prices as climate change affects availability. The company uses 97,000 pounds of avocados per day.

“Food prices for a number of our key ingredients escalated markedly at various points during 2013, and we expect that there will be additional pricing pressures on some of those ingredients, including avocados, beef, dairy and chicken during 2014,” the company said in its annual report. “For instance, two years of drought conditions in parts of the U.S. have resulted in significant increases in beef prices during late 2013 and early 2014.

“Increasing weather volatility or other long-term changes in global weather patterns, including any changes associated with global climate change, could have a significant impact on the price or availability of some of our ingredients. In the event of cost increases with respect to one or more of our raw ingredients, we may choose to temporarily suspend serving menu items, such as guacamole or one or more of our salsas, rather than paying the increased cost for the ingredients.”

University of California avocado expert Gary Bender told NPR last year that avocados are shrinking in size. Avocados usually weigh half a pound or more. In the summer of 2013, however, hundreds of thousands of trees in Southern California had the tiniest Hass avocados in local memory — some just the size of a golf ball — due to low winter rainfall in early 2012, erratic bee activity during the late spring bloom period, and lots of unseasonably cool and cloudy weather in the year since.

California, the country’s premiere source for avocados, has been facing severe droughts. Avocados take more than a full year to develop on the tree.

“There is no reason for Chipotle fans to panic,” said company spokesman Chris Arnold. He explained the warning included in the annual report is a routine disclosure of risk factors that could impact business.

“There is no looming ‘guacapocalypse,’ and I would not read too much into this,” he said, adding that weather-related price volatility is just part of doing business when a company relies on fresh ingredients. “With regard to avocados, we saw similar issues in 2011 and incurred higher prices for the avocados we used, but never stopped serving guacamole.”

Sources: Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., SEC Form 10-K filing of 02/05/2014; National Public Radio, August 19, 2013; and npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/08/15/212330603/incredibly-shrinking-avocados-why-this-years-fruit-are-so-tiny.

 

Mary Budinger is an Emmy award-winning journalist who writes about integrative medicine.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 33, Number 1, February/March 2014.

 

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