HEB monitors Mexico’s avocado ban as restaurants prepare to ‘smell it first’

News of a halt to US imports of avocados from Mexico surprised restaurants and vendors as much as consumers on Super Bowl Sunday. But HEB says it does not foresee any disruption at this time.

“HEB is monitoring the situation closely and working with our suppliers,” Dya Campos, director of government and public affairs, said in a statement. “At this time, we do not anticipate any disruption in supply.”

HEB will likely still have a supply of avocados from other major producers like Florida, Chile, Peru and California.

But a price hike is inevitable, says Jamie Gonzalez, director of community food programs at Big State Produce. Why? Because Texans — and most Americans — are used to Hass-based avocados, and the Mexican state of Michoacan is perhaps the biggest supplier.

“Things like restaurants and caterers — they’ll see it first,” Gonzalez says.

Here’s what it all means.

What happened?

On Sunday, February 13, the United States suspended all imports of avocados from Mexico after one of its inspectors received a threatening message. Drug cartels pressed Michoacan farmers for money with threats to kidnap and kill them. This has been going on for years and only recently began to affect US inspectors.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called it a shift in power of the United States over political and economic interests. Either way, it only compounds the ongoing lawyer problems.

Lawyer problems

Avocado production has been crippled since the summer of last year, leading to the end of the avocado season in California in early December. This was due to bad weather, COVID and lack of manpower, Gonzalez says.

This tension has already caused prices to fluctuate. Now that avocados from Mexico have been shut down, price increases will be seen, but not right away in HEB, Gonzalez says.

Restaurants in San Antonio will see it sooner than retail consumers.

Avocados for sale at the Chicho Boys fruit market on Monday afternoon. On Saturday, the United States suspended imports of Mexican avocados.

Robin Jerstad /Contributor

How much price increase?

  • Gonzalez says avocado cases come in different sizes — a 48 case is most common. She says the “48” avocado is about the same size as the palm of your hand. Ergo 48 will fit in a suitcase.
  • The higher the number, the smaller the size. Some are as high as a case of 60 counts. However, they all have the same weight.
  • Business Insider reported last week that a 20-pound case of avocados from Mexico’s largest exporter to the United States costs $6.29 more than the same time last year due to shortages of avocados. workforce.

  • Gonzalez says where she used to sell avocados at 78 cents, an individual fruit will now cost $1.10 to $1.20.
  • The most recent case cost around $60. She expects the cases to be around $70 soon.

Avocados from Mexico are valuable

Gonzalez says Americans prefer Hass avocados from Mexico and California. Mexico has been the largest exporter of avocados to the United States since opening up trade in 1997, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We don’t get enough of Florida, but nobody likes their lawyers,” Gonzalez says.

She says it’s because the climate and soil are more favorable on Michoacan farms, resulting in Hass-based avocados with a higher fat content that results in a creamier texture when ripe. If you’ve eaten guacamole at a restaurant in San Antonio, it’s probably from Mexico.

Aldaco's is known for its popular avocado margarita.  Owner Blanca Alfaro says it won't be the same with avocados from Mexico.

Aldaco’s is known for its popular avocado margarita. Owner Blanca Alfaro says it won’t be the same with avocados from Mexico.

Courtesy of Blanca Alfaro

On the table

Aldaco’s Mexican cuisine

At Aldaco’s Mexican Cuisine, owner Blanca Aldaco and staff serve guacamole as an appetizer and side dish on the plates, but the big player on her menu is the avocado margarita.

She prefers Hass-based Mexican avocados because of their creaminess. Avocados from Florida or Chile just won’t cut it for Aldaco.

Aldaco says the restaurant uses about eight cases of 38 units per day.

She’s working with her team right now to assess where they go from here. If they lose access to Mexican avocados, Aldaco is certain that avocado margaritas won’t be the same.

Yellow fish sushi

Alex Sarmiento, co-founder of Yellowfish Sushi, says 90% of his sushi rolls and other menu items use avocado. For him, avocados from Mexico are not just a matter of taste, but of consistency. Avocados from other regions are softer, making them difficult to roll when it comes to sushi.

There’s a Yellowfish location on Wurzbach Road – the flagship – and another at The Rim. Sarmiento also expects the price of avocado cases to increase by around $10. Right now he pays about $40 to $60 per case. Restaurants use one case of avocados a day.

He says this will only add to the increase in fish prices that restaurants were already facing. The price per roll on the Wurzbach site has already dropped from $11 to $12.50.

La Familia Restaurants

Pete Cortez of La Familia Cortez laughs when he says most of their restaurant menus come with guacamole or sliced ​​avocado. La Familia Cortez owns and operates some of San Antonio’s largest and best-known Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants, including Mi Tierra, La Margarita, Pico de Gallo, and Mi Familia at The Rim.

Restaurants deal with about “several hundred cases a week”.

“We have a lot ahead of us right now,” Cortez said. “I hope this is a situation that will be resolved very quickly.”

Hopefully before Fiesta, when business should pick up, according to Cortez.

How long will it last?

It’s unclear. Again, drug cartels have been extorting money from farmers for years, but the situation is close to home for US officials. While we will have access to lawyers from other regions, the United States has become accustomed to lawyers from Michoacan.

“I would suspect something like this will last a few weeks and hopefully no more,” Gonzalez said.

About James Almanza

Check Also

Texas Restauranteur’s $1 Surcharge Raises $250,000 for Ukraine – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

A Dallas restaurateur’s plan to support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine has raised more than $250,000 …