(Repeats story published Tuesday to widen distribution)
By Adriana Barrera
MEXICO CITY, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Super Bowl fans may have to go without guacamole this year if avocado farmers in Mexico cannot send their fruit to the United States because of a prolonged fuel shortage.
Like clockwork, Mexican producers ship thousands of tonnes of avocado to the United States in early February every year, where guacamole is a staple living room snack on Super Bowl Sunday.
But the Mexican government’s efforts to clamp down on years of mounting fuel theft has a prompted a week-long fuel shortage that has left many states in central and western Mexico high and dry.
Among those states is Michoacan, the country’s main avocado grower. Producers there expect to ship 120,000 tonnes for this Super Bowl, 20,000 tonnes more than last year.
“Our three most important weeks of the year are this one and the next two. This is when we ship for Super Bowl week,” said Ramon Paz, spokesman for APEAM, a business association representing Mexican avocado producers and exporters.
“We have from now to January 24, 25 to ship all that volume. If we don’t ship it (by then), we can’t do so later,” Paz said.
So far, 27,000 tonnes have been sent to the United States for the Super Bowl, which will be held on Feb. 3 in Atlanta, Georgia. The annual football championship is the most-watched U.S. television broadcast of the year, regularly drawing more than 100 million viewers.
The fuel shortage has not yet affected exports to the United States, but it has begun to hamper transportation in Mexico for workers and harvested avocados, Paz added.
In addition to the Super Bowl, Mexican producers also have to meet commitments with supermarkets and restaurants in the United States.
The crackdown on fuel theft, which has drained billions of dollars from state coffers and is blamed for rising violence in some regions, is leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s first major move against criminals and corruption since taking office on Dec. 1. The move risks angering consumers and hurting the economy.
Reporting by Adriana Barrera Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Lisa Shumaker