The threat of a retail avocado extinction is indeed real, but just one of many significant economic consequences if President Trump follows through on an unprecedented threat to completely close the U.S.-Mexico border.
It’s perhaps the most bizarre move in two years of relentlessly erratic and bizarre behavior by Trump, and he is indeed currently threatening to flat-out close the southern border of the United States with Mexico. (Like many of his proclamations with regard to immigration, this could just be an idle and logistically near-impossible threat meant to impress his base.) One aspect of this threat that’s getting a lot of attention is its potential to cause a severe avocado shortage here in the States. But the move would also toast the larger produce, automobile, and manufacturing sectors, in what the New York Times says would “resemble the aftermath of a major natural disaster: food shortages, skyrocketing prices, people out of work and a plummeting stock market.”
The Times claims that we would see food shortages and a spike in prices and “in a matter of days.” Here in California, NBC Bay Area adds that “Due to a poor season for California avocados this year, virtually all of the avocados in U.S. stores are coming from Mexico.” That report notes that if the Mexican border were completely closed, California would run out of avocados within three weeks (forcing us to possibly rely on the smuggling of an avocado cartel).
An avocado mafia is not the stupidest or most abject development of the Trump Administration but the mere fact it is possible is... something. https://t.co/NZPVSURs3D— Chris Roberts (@cbloggy) April 2, 2019
"We haven't seen a time in the US when supermarket shelves are bare from fresh produce in a long time," president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas Lance Jungmeyer tells CNN. "We have grown very accustomed to having all the food we want when we want to eat it and at a price that is reasonable." (That is except for that lime shortage a few years ago, which happened because of a drug cartel in Mexico.)
The question is: Is the country of Puerto Rico also a Mexico?— Philip Bump (@pbump) April 2, 2019
If you haven’t noticed, Trump has been on a tweetstorm about the Mexican border closure lately. We’re not going to ratchet up your blood pressure by embedding them. But he did tweet — and these typos and grammatical errors are indeed real — that “If Mexico doesn’t immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States throug our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week. This would be so easy for Mexico to do, but they just take our money and 'talk.' Besides, we lose so much money with them, especially when you add in drug trafficking etc.), that the Border closing would be a good thing!”
Avocados are just one part of our sprawling trade with Mexico, and the Times estimates that an astonishing $1.7 billion in goods is crosses that border every day. It’s not just produce, but also flat-screen TVs, computer hardware, and other various goods, plus the hundreds of thousands of jobs related to the moving of these goods over ports and bordered. The Times also points out that a border closure could cause “car production lines in South Carolina, Michigan, Indiana and Alabama to shutter.”
But honestly, can Trump actually shut down the border? This is something no U.S. president has ever done! CNN notes that parts of the border have been shut down at times of exceptional crisis, like right after 9/11. The fact that this would be an extreme logistical challenge, involving tremendous planning and follow-through, is a good indication that Trump would be not be successful at doing it. CNN also reminds us there would be legal challenges galore, meaning that Trump could threaten to do it, have it shot down by the courts, and then simply tell his base that he did everything he could. That’s how this one is likely going to play out, except I’m not betting any money on anything right now because I’m saving up for the possibility that black market avocados might soon cost $35 apiece.