There's a dietary disaster developing down under: Australia is running low on avocados.
Demand for avocados has been rising in Australia, and supply is struggling to keep up. Heavy rains have interfered with the harvest in Western Australia and New Zealand, the main sources of avocados in the region at this time of year. Fires in Western Australia have only made the situation worse.
As a result, supply is down. Prices have spiked. One food truck in Sydney has resorted to using frozen avocado.
You might remember a few times when the threat of an avocado shortage has caused consternation in America — usually framed as a panic about the guacamole supply.
But that's not what's preoccupying most Australian diners right now. The uproar over avocados is all about breakfast.
Toast, to be precise. Smashed avocado on toast, a staple dish in Australian coffeeshops.
You may know avotoast as a health-food trend in the States, but the Australian avocation for avocado toast extends beyond the clean-eating set.
Many Aussies also believe their nation invented the food.
A profile of the dish by The Australian first described it in glowing terms — as "a glimmering heap of mashed avocado, flecked with salt and spices, atop a plank of rustic bread" and "the emblematic food of our times" — then got down to the question of origin.
"You have to remember that Australia was founded as a nation by convicts, so we have this great tradition of simply claiming things as our own," chef and television personality Curtis Stone told the newspaper. "I'm not sure whether avocado toast is actually ours to stake claim to, but we really take it on."
Anyway, back to the crisis.
An orchard owner told The Guardian he found the price of Australian avocados "a bit embarrassing" right now — like avocados selling for $4.98 (about $3.50 in American dollars). The average price per avocado in America is about a dollar.
But Russell Delroy explained the rain and fire were only worsening a deeper problem:
"He said 12 years ago, Australians ate about 1.4kg [3.3 lb] of the fruit per person each year, which has risen to 3.2 kg [7 lb]. The industry was aiming to boost that to 5kg [11 lb] within the next decade, he said.
"... 'At the moment, we're just not producing enough for summer demand, but a lot of planting is going on currently to prepare for the future,' Delroy said. "But it takes at least six years to get young trees into decent production.' "
So true avocado stability for Australia is still years away.
The current shortage should be resolved in February, when the crop out of Queensland starts to arrive.
"You've just got to ride the wave," a produce wholesaler told delicious.com.au, "Be patient and wait until the end of February."
One pop culture expert, interviewed by news.com.au, truly believes the nation can do it.
"We lived through the banana crisis and we are resilient people when it comes to cafe calamities," Dr. Lauren Rosewarne told the site. "We will survive but we may have to change our order."
She recommended beans on toast.