Availability of the green-skinned fruit is likely to plummet if the border closure goes ahead.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on April 2, 2019

Steve Barnard, President and Chief Executive of Mission Produce, the world’s largest avocado grower, said the US would completely run out of the fruit in just three weeks in the event of a border shutdown.

“You couldn’t pick a worse time of year because Mexico supplies virtually 100 percent of the avocados in the U.S. right now. California is just starting and they have a very small crop, but they’re not relevant right now and won’t be for another month or so,” said Barnard.

Tomatoes, cucumbers and tequila are the other items most likely to be impacted. While there are some domestic producers and other foreign sources, it may take some time to establish these import channels.

Trump threatened to close the Mexico border over immigration and drugs

On 29 March, Trump said there was a “very good likelihood” he would shut the border as soon as this week if Mexico did not stop immigrants from entering the US.

“Mexico is going to have to do something; otherwise, I’m closing the border,” Trump said at Mar-A-Lago in Florida. “I’ll just close the border. And with a deficit like we have with Mexico and have had for many years, closing the border will be a profit-making operation. When you close the border, also you will stop a lot of the drugs from coming in. Because we take in tremendous drugs from Mexico, as you know as well as I do.”

“So you close up the border and you watch the drugs go way down too. But I will close the border if Mexico doesn’t get with it, if Mexico doesn’t stop it.”

A border shutdown would cause havoc for millions crossing the border illegally, however, as well as massively disrupting trade. The US imports around US$137 billion of food from Mexico.

Avocado imports just one component of trade with Mexico

Per data from the US Department of Agriculture, 40% of all fruit imported into the US and almost half all imported vegetables are from Mexico.

“When a border is closed or barriers to trade are put in place, I absolutely expect there would be an impact on consumers,” said Monica Ganley, Principal at Quarterra, a consultancy firm specialising in Latin American agriculture and trade.

“We’re absolutely going to see higher prices. This is a very real and very relevant concern for American consumers.”

Some Trump supporters tried to paint the looming avocado shortage as a small price to pay for a necessary border closure. “I’ll give up guac and hipster toast that I don’t eat anyway if we can prevent even one American from being killed by an illegal alien,” Newsmax host John Cardillo wrote on Twitter.

A border shutdown would also hurt a number of US industries, including producers of refined fuels such as gasoline and diesel. Mexico is currently the largest importer of these fuels from the US.

The House Homeland Security Committee, currently controlled by the Democrats, tweeted that “Approximately $1.5 billion worth of commerce happens along the US-Mexico border every day” and that Trump’s proposal to shut down the border “is a disaster”.

Trump has long claimed the situation at the Mexico border amounts to a “national crisis”, an assertion which has been strongly rejected by fact-checkers.