First news broke earlier this month about how California’s worsening four-year drought will drive up the price of avocados, making them a scarce commodity, and now Florida officials are sending out drones to battle a deadly fungus that is targeting avocado trees in the Sunshine state. “This is probably the biggest threat to the Florida avocado that’s ever been seen,” Jonathan H. Crane, a University of Florida fruit crop specialist told the Associated Press.
What’s worse, if the spread of this pesky fungus called Laurel Wilt isn’t stopped, it could make its way to California, where 90 percent of the country’s avocados are grown. Get those flying contraptions off the ground!
Florida has provided home-growers $148,000 in funding to get heat-sensing drones to spot areas where the beetle that carries the fungus is active with thermal digital imaging technology and dogs to then sniff out infected avocado trees. So far, the state’s commercial growing hub has not been infiltrated. To raise awareness the hashtag campaign #SaveTheGuac has been launched.
Meanwhile, back in California Governor Jerry Brown announced the state’s first-ever mandatory water restrictions a couple of weeks ago to reduce usage by 25 percent. With the current situation out West, the cost of an avocado is likely to go up 17 to 35 cents at the grocery store, according to a report by business professor Timothy Richards at Arizona State University. “One other thing for shoppers to understand – because prices are going to go up so much, retailers will start looking elsewhere for produce. This means we’ll see a lot more imports from places like Chile and Mexico, which may be an issue for certain grocery customers who want domestic fruit and vegetables,” said Richards.
While Chipotle has decided to wait until the fall to pass on the extra cost of guac to customers if prices continue to rise, this year’s Cinco de Mayo celebrations will likely take a hit. Nowadays, we can only dream of the times when restaurant chains featured lavish “avocado season” menu options like Subway did in 2013 (check out the video below). Pass the avocado-free salsa, please.