In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites »

A roundup of news clippings we're reading that affect the way we eat.

Avocado Crop in Jeopardy Due to Low Rainfall

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[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

As a newcomer to California, I thought the tiny avocados being sold at fruit stands at 10 for a dollar were perfectly normal. What does an East Coaster like me know about avocados? But as it turns out, there's something funny going on with this year's avocado harvest. The avocados are unusually, suspiciously, and dramatically small— smaller, perhaps, than they ever have been before.

NPR reports that many experts are seeing the smallest avocados ever this season. Farmers are attributing the shrinking fruit to low rainfall in early 2012, irregular bee activity, and cooler temperatures throughout the year. Resulting fruits are clocking in at around 3 to 6 ounces, when typical avocados usually weigh a heftier 8 ounces. This means farmers could see lower prices for their crops.

Low rainfall has been a consistent problem for farmers in the past few years. The drought has extended further south into Mexico as well, where farmers are already making plans to adapt to future climate irregularity. The majority of avocados imported from Mexico and grown in California are Hass avocados, and farmers are beginning to seek out other more durable breeds that may do better in low water conditions.

Bee activity has also been irregular in the past year, as we've covered, along with many others following agricultural news. Bees help to pollinate at least 30% of the world's crops. While bee populations may eventually rise again, changing climate conditions will likely continue to threaten the status quo of agricultural production.

Luckily, this year's Hass avocado harvest in California will still bring in about 400 million pounds of fruit. The quality of the smaller fruits is just fine, and next year's harvest will likely result in larger fruits. For now, consumers will have to do with peeling and pitting a bit more for their guacamole.

About the Author: Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her other work can be found at her website.

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