The ban on avocados from Mexico has lifted. Will we see shortages and higher prices?

You might have to spend more for that avocado toast.

And move over cream cheese. Those avocados you planned on buying to make fresh guacamole could be the next great shortage of 2022.

Avocado imports from Mexico to the U.S. were suspended indefinitely Feb. 12, after a U.S. plant safety inspector in Mexico received a threat. But the suspension was short.

The U.S. Embassy announced Friday that Washington is lifting a ban on inspections of Mexican avocados, freeing the way for exports to resume.

(Have you noticed signs of an avocado shortage yet, including any new limits on how many avocados you can buy? Have you seen avocado prices rising lately? Feel free to fill out this form, which also is below, to tell USA TODAY about your experiences.)

Yet higher prices and minimal inventory in grocery stores for the beloved green fruit could come even though the suspension was short.

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The fruit has become a staple in the United States, where per capita consumption of avocados tripled since 2001 to 8 pounds per person in 2018.

The suspension of inspections had threatened Mexico’s $3 billion annual exports and raised the possibility of price increases for U.S. consumers.

Ambassador Ken Salazar said in a statement the decision came after Mexico and the United States agreed “to enact the measures that ensure the safety” of agricultural inspectors who are in charge of making sure Mexican avocados don’t carry diseases or pests that would harm U.S. orchards.

Here’s what you need to know.

Why were avocados from Mexico banned?

The inspections were halted last week after one of the U.S. inspectors was threatened in the western state of Michoacan, where growers are routinely subject to extortion by drug cartels.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday that the inspector had received a threat “against him and his family.” It said the inspector had “questioned the integrity of a certain shipment, and refused to certify it based on concrete issues.”

Michoacan is the only Mexican state certified as pest-free and able to export avocados to the U.S. market. There have been frequent reports that some packers in Mexico are buying avocados from other, noncertified states, and trying to pass them off as being from Michoacan.

What percentage of avocados are from Mexico?

The Mexican harvest is January through March, while U.S production runs from April to September.

There were signs that supplies may have tightened since the inspection suspension was announced last Saturday and that the damage to Mexico’s violence-plagued avocado industry may be lasting: It could prompt companies that import avocados to look beyond Mexico, which currently supplies about 92% of U.S. imports of the fruit.

Where else does the U.S. get avocados?

Peru, Colombia and Chile already ship avocados to the United States, but in quantities that are only a tiny fraction of Mexico’s production. There are also domestic sources like southern California.

Mexico acknowledged Feb. 13 that the U.S. government has suspended all imports of Mexican avocados after a U.S. plant safety inspector in Mexico received a threat.

Mexico acknowledged Feb. 13 that the U.S. government has suspended all imports of Mexican avocados after a U.S. plant safety inspector in Mexico received a threat.

Why are avocado prices so high?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s retail report on avocado prices between Feb. 4 and Feb. 10 showed that avocados were “significantly higher in price than last year” but were “very well advertised” ahead of the Super Bowl, which is considered one of the top days for avocado consumption.

The average price of a Hass avocado was $1.24, and they were on sale at 5,505 stores, compared with 78 cents last year at nearly 20,000 stores.

Prices are now expected to increase even more.

“I think it is going to increase prices in the United States, not now because there is still avocado in transit, but I anticipate that in a week or 10 days we will have a price spike,” said Miguel Gómez, professor of applied economics and management in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

Will there be an avocado shortage?

Gómez said he expects any shortage caused by the ban would be short-lived.

“I think that the disruption in the market will be very short now because (avocado from) Peru is going to come in late March, early April, and I’m sure they are going to do everything it takes to start shipping avocados earlier and perhaps in mid-March,” Gómez said.

Will Chipotle run out of avocados for its guacamole?

Jack Hartung, Chipotle Mexican Grill’s chief financial officer, said in a statement that the fast-casual chain is “working closely with our suppliers to navigate through this challenge. Our sourcing partners currently have several weeks of inventory available, so we’ll continue to closely monitor the situation and adjust our plans accordingly.”

Contributing: Associated Press; Gabriela Miranda, USA TODAY

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Avocado shortage? Will the Mexico avocado ban raise prices?






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