Can’t find Sriracha? Here’s why the shortage is a sign of our harsh climate reality

Le Uyen, chef and owner of Food Street Vietnamese U in Hollywood East, was scraping out her Sriracha bottles and attempting to ration her supply. Huy Fong Foods had declared a scarcity of the red chili peppers it employs to produce the sauce, and people around the globe were paying attention.

One of the restaurant’s employees suggested asking the public for help. About 100 bottles were left in the restaurant later that year. During the promotion, U Be offered free meals in exchange for around 300 bottles of Fong Huy Sriracha sauce.

“Is this too much, but turned out to be prescient?” I exclaimed, feeling astonished. When we heard about the shortage last week, we were well prepared. We have to live with the reality. I have always been aware of supply chain issues related to climate change and understood that we need to adapt and make changes,” Le said.

Heading into another summer, the makers of the famous hot sauce Sriracha, known for their iconic green cap and rooster on the bottle, say that the world is still a little more bland when they don’t supply their bounce back.

Some Sriracha lovers in the Bay Area have reportedly been taking bottles of the 28-ounce single bottle listed at $29.99 per month limit per customer from the Filipino restaurant chain Sisig Señor in Oakland’s Asian grocery, as reported by SFGate.

Customers are restricted to purchasing only one bottle, and whenever the store receives a new supply, the hot sauce is completely sold out within a day, according to a market manager. The area designated for Huy Fong Foods bottles is currently vacant, however, the shelves are filled with numerous counterfeit Huy Fong Sriracha bottles at 168 Market in Alhambra.

“It has been this way for several months. We want people to know that all the time. Everyone is acting politely. The manager said that there are a lot of people calling, looking for the Sriracha sauce, but he did not give his name.”

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At one point, a two-pack of 17-ounce bottles was priced at more than $160, with almost all Sriracha choices being unavailable on Amazon, the online situation is equally unfavorable.

Experts caution that the deficits, a occurrence that has endured for the past year, are responsible for the drought in Mexico on a heating planet.

In 2019, a substantial financial award in support of Underwood resulted in the separation of the involved parties due to a contentious contractual disagreement, until Huy Fong Foods, which utilizes approximately 50,000 tons of chiles annually to produce its Sriracha, chile-garlic sauce, and sambal oelek, obtained all its peppers from Underwood Ranches in Ventura County for close to three decades.

Mexico, a country experiencing severe drought conditions that have limited agricultural production and caused water shortages in numerous urban and rural areas, is currently being supplied by Huy Fong from various providers.

The company in Irwindale said it is still experiencing a shortage of raw materials, so it has limited the production of Sriracha and expects supplies to fall when there is no estimate.

Gary Nabhan, an agricultural ecologist and emeritus professor at the University of Arizona, stated that although there is currently an adequate amount of water used in the United States, efforts are being made to ensure that future food supplies do not experience shortages, as mentioned by Fong Huy Foods.

As per a recent research conducted by Nabhan, it has reached a stage where the techniques to cultivate those crops must adjust to an evolving terrain. Over the years, farmers have been cultivating their agricultural products with declining water resources, but American farms have priority access to that water. Vast areas of Mexico receive water from the Colorado River.

Nabhan stated that due to competition and drought, the harvest of water-hungry crops upstream continues to decrease. However, pecans or alfalfa grow with less water, requiring only half the amount needed for Jalapeño peppers.

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Nabhan stated, “however, we’re not requesting farmers to switch to more effective irrigation methods.” “Every politician will be hesitant to assign a smaller amount of water, but it’s also about how we fairly distribute the water,” the main factor influencing this is climate change.

As per the U.S. Census Bureau and the Mexican government’s data, the United States stands as the primary purchaser of agricultural goods from Mexico, with a notable 14% growth in the previous year, reaching a remarkable milestone of $44.2 billion.

According to Mexico’s Ministry of Rural Development and Agriculture, some of the top producers of Chile peppers in Mexico are Michoacán and Chihuahua, as well as states like Sinaloa, where these peppers thrive in arid climates.

Based on the most recent drought monitor report from the Mexican government, extensive areas of the nation are experiencing a drought, and Mexico is currently facing an intense heat wave.

According to Shon Hiatt, a faculty member at USC’s Marshall School of Business specializing in global energy and agriculture, although the public is primarily concerned about the scarcity of chile peppers in Sriracha hot sauce, other crops are also being negatively impacted due to the drought.

As per the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Kansas is forecasted to experience a historically feeble harvest this year due to drought circumstances, one of the biggest origins of hard red winter wheat.

Hiatt said, “If you were to draw a line from Texas to Mexico, just go straight up all the way through the Dakotas and Minnesota. Right now, we’re experiencing droughts in the Midwest.”

Fong Huy, the supply chain disruption caused by the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., Is similar to the situation in which overseas core components, like electronics or ibuprofen, couldn’t be produced by manufacturers for a few months. This drought of items came during the broader situation that gripped the country.

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Hiatt said, “We don’t make anything here. We are highly vulnerable to supply chain shocks because we purchase everything from Southeast Asia and China. We strongly recognize the impact on the supply chain, and we go, ‘Oh, we realized that.’ It’s the same thing when it comes to agriculture.”

Huy Fong Foods declined an interview request and stated that it was unable to determine the specific markets that will receive a larger portion of its products.

Certain individuals are unable to wait, thus they are creating their own sauce.

Kristin Nguyen, the owner and chef at Chives and Garlic, a Michelin-recommended Asian fusion restaurant in Little Saigon’s Garden Grove, didn’t think about the cost of Sriracha sauce before the shortage, but now they are selling bottles at a premium.

Nguyen stated, “I invest my complete passion and dedication into everything I produce.” “I am unwilling to compromise on flavor, and I did not desire to burden my customers with the expenses, yet I incorporate it into many of my sauces.”

Nguyen mentioned that the expenses for labor and materials to produce her own Sriracha sauce are expensive. Red jalapeños, which can be sold in quantities of about 10 pounds, can cost up to $8 per pound. Moreover, the entire procedure necessitates time for fermentation, not to mention the additional expenses for vinegar, sugar, and other necessary components. Prior to the scarcity of Sriracha, Nguyen would simply grab a bottle of Huy Fong.

“It really does affect me, because it takes away time from other things I could be doing for my businesses,” Nguyen said.

She thinks that her Sriracha is close to the classic taste of Huy Fong’s and said she can work around the problem.

“If [Huy Fong] desires to collaborate on some concepts for alternatives,” she stated, “we can decipher the secret.”

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