U.S. Suspends Fresh Avocado Imports from Mexico—Again

Jun 20, 2024

U.S. Suspends Fresh Avocado Imports from Mexico—Again

What happens when the supply chain of one of your most popular ingredients vanishes overnight? U.S. restaurants that serve avocado are about to find out—again.

On Monday, June 17th, the U.S. government suspended all avocado fruit and mango imports from Michoacán, Mexico. According to the USDA, the suspension came in response to a security incident made against one of USDA’s health inspectors in Mexico and will last for “as long as necessary.”

The U.S. also temporarily suspended avocado imports in 2021 after an inspector received a threatening letter, causing prices to spike.

Predictably, this development has sent U.S. restaurant operators scrambling to secure supplies for this menu favorite. As the standing inventory of fruit is depleted, prices could increase dramatically—and they were already high.

Before imports were suspended, prices on avocados were trending upward, exceeding the five-year average and 50% more expensive than they were a year ago.1

“The price increase we were seeing before today was already running ahead of historical data,” says Nick Williams, Product Marketing Manager at Simplot. “Reduced rainfall had reduced avocado quality and size, leading to higher prices. The suspension isn’t going to help.”

Williams predicts that remaining supply—any fruit inspected and certified for export before June 17—will be sold at a premium to the highest bidders, and this supply could be exhausted in a matter of days. Other avocado suppliers like the U.S., Peru and Chile will not be able to make up for the shortfall.

What restaurants can do to cope with an avocado shortage

This setback highlights the importance of consistent pricing and product availability for operators in a time of rising costs and erratic supply. Here are three steps you can take to mitigate the shortage and continue serving delicious avocado, even if the import suspension continues.

1. Switch to prepared avocado products. Unlike whole fruit, prepared avocado products—like Simplot® Harvest Fresh® products—are NOT affected by the suspension and continue to be produced and shipped into the U.S. from Mexico. Prepared avocado offers several attractive benefits:

  • Year-round availability with consistent pricing and quality.

  • Picked and processed at the peak of ripeness for rich flavor and creamy texture.

  • A smart way to reduce expensive labor and eliminate waste.

  • High Pressure Processed (HPP) for food safety without preservatives.

  • Frozen products offer extended shelf life, providing great flexibility in the face of uneven restaurant traffic.

2. Upcharge for avocado. This comes as no secret, but one way to offset the rising price of raw fruit is to charge more per dish. Avocado continues to command a premium on operators’ menus and patrons are willing to pay for it. The average upcharge for avocado is $1.50, but can go as high as $3.00! With the suspension, patrons will understand that operators are under pricing pressure to prevent rising costs from impacting their bottom line. And if they don’t understand…

3. Educate your customers. Start by training your servers on what’s happening in the market for whole avocados and how to talk to your customers about the increase in prices. Many patrons are sympathetic to their favorite restaurants and will understand paying a dollar or two more if they understand why. Here are some talking points to share in person or in writing:

  • 8 out of 10 avocados in the U.S. are imported from Mexico

  • The U.S. government stopped importing Mexican avocados

  • It’s uncertain when avocado imports will resume

  • In the meantime, avocado prices are at a record high

Simplot® Harvest Fresh® prepared avocado products unaffected

“We’re open for business. The suspension doesn’t affect our avocado products. There’s no disruption in our production, trucking or forward distributions centers at all,” Williams explains. “We have supply to meet the heightened demand.”

Simplot has been sourcing prepared avocado products from Michoacán, Mexico, since the 1990s. In addition to all of the benefits of prepared products noted above, Simplot® Harvest Fresh® Avocado products are made exclusively from 100% Mexican Hass avocado, the industry standard for flavor and texture.

1 USDA Pricing Insights, 2024