San Diego Restaurants Pitted by Suspension of Mexican Avocado Imports

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Whether it's topping a shrimp cocktail or added on as a side to a quesadilla plate, just about everything Juan Magaña sells at Sierra Madre Cantina comes with a side of avocado.

"You order some tacos, you order [a] quesadilla, you order basically anything [and] it's going to have guacamole on it," Magaña said.

But soon the fruit could become more difficult to find. U.S. suspended all avocado imports from Mexico on Saturday after a USDA inspector in Michoacan, Mexico, received a threatening call. The threat came as violence in the area continues to rise between criminal organizations.

"That's big because about 80% of the avocados consumed in the U.S. are imported from Mexico," said Alan Gin, professor of economics at the University of San Diego.

The average price of an avocado in the U.S. was already $1.43, nearly 11% higher than a year ago. Gin said the ban could further increase prices.

Peru, Colombia, and Chile also ship avocados to the U.S. but in much smaller quantities. There are also domestic sources, like farms right here in our backyard.

"We were the only providers of avocados to the United States up until 1997," said Enrico Ferro, local avocado farmer. "Which is when Mexico started coming in."

Ferro owns an avocado grove in Valley Center which distributes the fruit locally and nationally. But, including Ferro's fruit, California is only able to supply roughly 15% of the U.S. avocado market.

"The problem I see is that we were always a seasonal market," said Ferro. "By having Mexico and Chile and other countries come in, it allows our market to be year-round, which in the world of food, that's a good thing because you'll have recidivism, like you'll have people continue to buy. So a disruption in that system really, really has a negative impact," he explained.

For now, Magaña said he’s prepared to take the hit.

"I will deal with it and go business as usual," he said.

At the same time, he doesn’t know how long his business can handle it.

"If it's going to be a long-term thing then this is an expense we won't be able to absorb," said Magaña.

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