Local restaurants exhale as avocado import ban is lifted

The United States announced on Friday that it would lift its temporary ban on imports of Mexican avocados – and Mexican restaurants in the region are breathing a sigh of relief.

For Mexicali Blue at New Paltz, 80% of their menu uses avocados, said executive chef Chris Nicolosi. With the ban, chefs and restaurateurs in the Hudson Valley and beyond have expressed concerns about how they would obtain Mexican avocados — and at what price.

“It all depended on how long the ban lasted,” Nicolosi said. “We couldn’t charge $100 for a side of guacamole.”

Mexico supplies about 80% of the avocados consumed in the United States, and in 2020 some $2.6 billion worth of avocados were sold here, according to Statista.

Prior to the short ban, avocado prices were already 100% higher than a year earlier, according to the Washington Post, as inflation drove up food prices. The ban did not help these costs, as it “probably resulted in a cost of more than $120 million in the United States along the supply chain, impacting the wholesale, retail and services nationally and nationally,” according to Mangeur.

La Cabañita in Poughkeepsie only buys avocados from Mexico, where most avocados are grown in an orchard in Michoacán, a western Mexican state more than a thousand miles from the US border. “The heart of the best lawyer,” said Elvis Pinelo, general manager of La Cabañita.

“It would have affected us negatively,” Pinelo said of the prospect of a lingering ban. “We don’t like to buy avocados if they don’t come from Mexico, because the quality is completely different.

Pinelo said domestically grown avocados don’t ripen as well and aren’t as tasty as Mexican avocados.

“Right away you can tell the difference,” Pinelo said. “It’s a bit like apples. If you have an apple from New York State or an apple from Peru, it’s a night and day difference. It’s not the climate or the environment it needs to grow properly.

When Pinelo first heard about the avocado import ban, he feared his restaurant would either have to mark up the price of his guacamole or take it off the menu altogether for a while.

With the short shelf life of avocados, restaurant stock wouldn’t have lasted much longer had the ban not been lifted.

Mexicali Blue, on the other hand, was already considering freezing and storing avocados as a possibility. Nicolosi said while the quality might have taken a hit, some people would rather have that than nothing at all.

This isn’t the first ingredient shortage to force area restaurants to pivot. In December, area bagel shops and bakeries scrambled to find solutions to a cream cheese shortage caused by supply chain hiccups.

The avocado import ban was first implemented after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service noticed suspicious avocados that appeared to be from another state . The inspector received a voicemail threat after releasing the report, and the federal ban was put in place until the US government could ensure all officers were safe.

Gladys T. Hensley