Extreme weather in Mexico is leading to a national pickle shortage

Extreme weather in Mexico has impacted the availability of pickles in the U.S., prompting warnings from restaurants and concerns from consumers. The shortage is due to a reduced supply from Mexico, with temperatures in key growing areas being too high or too cold, impacting the growth of the pickled cucumbers. The US imports more than a million tons of fresh cucumbers annually, about 75% of which come from Mexico, making import shortages a major concern for businesses.

El Nino, a climate cycle, has caused extreme weather in Mexico’s 31 states, impacting pickled cucumber crops. Warm water in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean has led to increased rainfall and cooler conditions in winter, impacting cucumber growth. Drought in several regions of Mexico has also led to low water levels in reservoirs, further impacting the cultivation of crops that require adequate rainfall.

Mexico’s National Water Commission has restricted the flow of some water reservoirs due to increased demand, impacting the availability of water for crops such as cucumbers. Although most of Mexico’s annual rainfall occurs during the summer monsoon, variable activity levels make it an unreliable source of water for crops. The requirement of one inch of water per week for cucumbers means that drought in Mexico is a major concern for crop yields.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that production of cucumbers and certain types of squash has declined in the country despite increased consumer demand. Although consumption of healthy vegetables has grown by more than 24% in recent years, the United States International Trade Commission has found no basis for claims of unfair trade competition. Trade groups attribute the increase in cucumber imports to a lack of workers, bad weather in the Southeast and consumer preference for Mexican products over domestic ones.

Imports from Mexico have become a major source of cucumber and pumpkin supply in the U.S. market, surpassing domestic production. The trend of increased imports from Mexico is consistent with the overall growth of U.S. agricultural imports from the country. While Mexican production will struggle to overcome extreme weather conditions, other countries in the Americas may be able to help address the U.S. pickle shortage. The dependence on imports from Mexico is causing problems for companies as they try to manage the impact of weather on the snack’s availability to consumers.