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California Heat Wave Spells Doom For Avocados

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK
CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

If you were looking forward to celebrating the long weekend with a big bowl of guacamole, the Los Angeles Times has some terrible news for you. According to the California newspaper, early and record-breaking high temperatures have wreaked havoc on the state’s avocado trees, throwing a successful harvest of the beloved fruit into question.

In mid-June, California saw temperatures skyrocket during a record-breaking heat wave. In some places, high temperatures reached 119 degrees Fahrenheit. Some avocado farmers saw temperatures as high as 117 degrees, combined with winds of 30 miles per hour. That combination caused some trees to burn in the sun, and some of the fruit to drop. Dropped fruit is significantly less valuable for farmers who sell their fruit to packinghouses, as opposed to picked fruit, which commands a higher premium.

And while the impact of the heat wave is certainly being felt now, it could be next year’s crop that suffers the most.

From the Times:

Tom Bellamore, president of the California Avocado Commission, was in the groves last week, where he saw shriveled leaves, branches that were badly sunburned and some fruit drop, particularly on younger trees. As for the long-term consequences, he explains, “After the heat, it takes a while for the effects to manifest themselves, so at this point, we’re uncertain if there is a loss or not to next year’s crop.”

The heat wave is just another piece of misfortune for California’s avocado farmers, who have been battling a historic drought, labor shortages, and increased competition from Mexico avocados, which now command a full 80 percent of the United States’ avocado market.

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As climate change worsens, it’s likely that heat waves and intense droughts in California will become a more common occurrence, placing the long-term future of crops like avocado in jeopardy. Companies like Chipotle have already included climate change-triggered avocado shortages in their business plans, warning investors in 2014 that climate change could force prices for raw materials like avocado to spike, potentially pushing their guacamole off the menu.