When the Super Bowl rolls around, Americans love their guacamole. One estimate claims avocado consumption around Super Bowl weekend will top 100 million pounds this year – a 30 percent jump over last year.
Avocado growers in Mexico have figured out that Americans need a lot of avocados about now, and they're always ready to meet the demand.
"They step up their volume for those weeks leading up to Super Bowl, and they do it each year," said Steve Taft, President of Eco Farms Avocados Inc in Temecula. His 40-year old business grows and packs avocados, but also imports them from countries like Mexico, Chile, Peru, and New Zealand. He said this time of year, about 90% of the avocados consumed in the U.S. come from growers in Mexico.
"Once the Super Bowl passes, I’m sure they’ll moderate their harvest to reflect the lowering of business demand," Taft said.
So why is Mexico so powerful on the avocado playing field? Taft said Mexican avocado trees produce fruit basically all year.
“They have tons of water. That’s the thing that’s so unfair," he said with a laugh. "Their costs are cheaper anyway and then they’re having normal rainfall and then our costs are super high and we’re not having normal rainfall."
California produces most of the avocados grown in the U.S, but growers in the Golden State are grappling with a drought. The drought isn't threatening this year's avocado crop, but is forcing farmers like Ed McFadden to spend more money on water. McFadden grows avocados on 340 acres in Ventura County. During a more normal winter, McFadden says he’d get enough rain to turn off the pumps of his irrigation systems. Not this year.
"For us, our pumping cost is more than double my five-year average for the last month, just because we really were never able to back off on our irrigation sets," said McFadden, who also serves on the board of the California Avocado Commission.
The Avocados From Mexico trade and promotional group isn't shy about pointing out that Mexican avocados are available year-round. The California season is shorter. While some California growers begin picking their fruit in February, McFadden said the season really starts in March and goes through September.
"If you're making guacamole for your Independence Day celebration, there's a good chance you can get some California avocados for your party mix," said McFadden.