SANTEE, Calif. (KGTV) - The price of avocados could triple in the next few weeks, experts say, as the end of the season supply dwindles.
The California Avocado Commission says this year's crop is almost half of last years, down to an estimated 212.3 million pounds across the state. Last year at this time, they were estimating almost 400 million pounds.
In San Diego, the drop off is similar. The CAC says the San Diego region is only expected to provide 83 million pounds of avocados. Last year San Diego growers supplied 140 million pounds.
The commission blames the drought, and also unseasonably warm weather this past winter.
There are also acreage concerns. Across California, only an estimated 44,000 acres are used to grow avocados. Last year the Commission says there were 52,000 acres devoted to the crop.
Because of the low supply, prices are soaring.
Jim Boyce, the General Manager of Produce Express in Northern California, told 10News he expects a case of avocados to sell for about $90 within the next few weeks. One case holds about 60 avocados. That's $1.50 each, at wholesale prices. By the time grocery stores factor in shipping and profit mark ups, Boyce says stores could set prices at or above $3 per avocado.
Farmers at local markets say their prices won't get quite that high, but they're still worried about their supply.
Bob Varela, who sells his avocados at the Santee Farmer's Market, says he's almost sold out for the season.
"This week will be my last week," he says. "And avocados that I usually sell for 75 cents cost $1.25 now."
Varela says the drought decimated his crop, killing 120 of his 200 trees.
"It's tough," he says. "It used to be, when a relative wanted some avocados, I could go into my grove and pick a batch of full, big beautiful avocados and say, 'Here, enjoy them, take them back to your family.' Now there's no fruit to do that."
Even restaurants will feel the pinch. Boyce says the restaurant owners he talked to haven't mentioned removing avocados from their menu. But, he says, if the prices keep rising, a lot of them have talked about adding an avocado surcharge or raising prices on menu items that include the fruit.
In addition to the drought, global supply issues are keeping the crop low. Boyce says growers from Mexico have a virtual monopoly on the crop on the west coast. Because of that, he says a lot of them aren't sending any avocados across the border, hoping to keep prices high.
Boyce thinks more avocados from Chile or Peru could come next month and help with prices, but not much.
"The season started too early and ended too early here," he says.