In three weeks, American consumers may experience an avocado outage, after President Donald Trump said that he is going to close the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the President, there is a “very good likelihood” he would shut the border if Mexico continues to allow immigrants to cross the border.
A total shutdown would affect millions of legal immigrants, along with the asylum seekers. It will also impact trades worth billions of dollars; $137bn of which are food-related.
To meet the demands of the consumers, the U.S. is relying heavily on imports from Mexico, such as vegetables, alcohols, and fruits. Forty percent of fruits and almost half of all vegetables that are imported to the US are harvested from Mexico, says the USDA’s latest data.
Steve Barnard, president, and chief executive of Mission Produce, says that there will be an avocado shortage in three weeks if Mexico’s imports were stopped. The country is the world’s largest grower and distributor of avocados.
Barnard says, “You couldn’t pick a worse time of year because Mexico supplies virtually 100% of the avocados in the U.S. right now. California is just starting, and they have a very small crop, but they’re not relevant right now and won’t be for another month or so.”
According to Monica Ganley, head of Quarterra, a consultancy that specializes in agricultural trade and issues in Latin America, closing the border will consequently affect the consumers.
“We’re absolutely going to see higher prices. This is a very real and very relevant concern for American consumers,” Ganley said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that the US and Mexico are trading about $1.7 billion goods every day. It also said that shutting the border would be “an unmitigated economic debacle” that would affect five million jobs in America.
Exports in Danger
The U.S. exports refined fuels such as gasoline and diesel, and Mexico is its largest importer. Some of these fuels are transported by train. It is not clear, however, if the closure would affect the rail terminals.
The search for new flavors has increased the need for a greater variety of fresh produce, making the States dependent on Mexico more to fulfill the demand.
Meanwhile, imports have increased by almost 300 percent since 1999. During that time, Mexico has increased its supply from less than a third of imported produce to 44 percent today.
Aside from avocados, Mexico has been the major exporter of tomatoes, blackberries, cucumbers, and raspberries. While these goods can be imported from other places around the world, it would take time to open those trade channels, Ganley said.