Avocado Strike Ends, Shortages Continue

Last week, customers at Lola’s Cafe were told that the restaurant did not have avocados for any of their sandwiches, wraps or paninis. The popular fruit is a main ingredient in American diet, and the majority of the items on the Lola’s menu, but adjustments have been made due to laborer strikes in Mexico. Though the strikers have recently reached an agreement, local businesses and grocers still deal with the aftermath of the strikes, as if conflicts had not been resolved.

The strike began on September 28th with smaller growing operations and quickly spread to larger growers and packing companies, according to Chris Barvel. As the sales and logistics manager for Henry Avocado, a year-round grower and distributor of Hass Avocado, Barvel gets his information from their packers and from industry newsletters.

The original group of growers organized a strike after receiving information on the prices of avocados in the United States, which is exponentially higher than what they receive per avocado. However, the growers neglected to take into account the cost of running a business with expenses like duties, transportation and distribution in the U.S.“They just thought they were being cheated and taken advantage of,” said Barvel And so, the strike began and escalated.

“We had reports that armed gunmen were entering the groves, preventing harvest crews from entering and harvesting, forcibly,” Barvel said. The strikers then extended their influence to the avocado packers. “They blockaded packing sheds to stop them from receiving the avocados from the groves and packing and shipping them,” said Barvel. Finally, by October 15th, growers, pickers, packers and harvesters came together to end the strike and make an agreement, the terms of which are still unclear to Barvel and his colleagues.

For Americans, the two major consequences of the strike have been increased prices and a lack of edible, ripened avocados. In general, the price of a case of avocados during the strike has been two to three times more than what it was a few months ago. “Every week is a different price, you don’t even know how much it’s gonna be this week,” said Aykut Alacan, owner of Salsa, a Mexican restaurant in Poughkeepsie. Without changing the menus every week, Alacan tries to explain to customers that the prices have gone up for dishes with avocado. Some are understanding but some are not willing to pay so much. “We are here to make money too,” said Alacan. “I don’t wanna lose my crowd.”

Now that striking has ceased and avocado flow has started up again, vendors are still dealing with a lack of usable avocados from their shipments. At Lola’s, they still had avocados, but none worth serving or selling. “We have them in the back but we have cases that we’ve been holding onto for four or five days just waiting for them to hopefully ripen up,” said Lola’s Catering Chef Mike Krane.

“Avocados don’t ripen overnight,” explained Barvel. “They have been harvested and distributed but there’s still a delay. Enough time will go by that the avocados will get ripe for stores and, in the warehouses, for restaurants.”

Avocados are back in business and the Hudson Valley will be flowing with them shortly. Once current batches have time to ripen and the chain of labor within the avocado industry gets back on track, Barvel estimates that the problem will fix itself in another week.