TOP STORIES Sriracha is in short supply across the country, and...

Sriracha is in short supply across the country, and climate change may be to blame

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The impact of Sriracha’s lack is beginning to be felt.

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Scott Olson/Getty Images

The impact of Sriracha’s lack is beginning to be felt.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Sorry Sriracha fans, your favorite hot sauce is running out all over the country.

The Sriracha company, Huy Fong Foods, wrote to the mail customers at the end of April that he would have to stop making the sauce for the next few months due to “severe weather conditions affecting the quality of the chili.”

Hot sauce has something of a cult following, so when the news leaked, some fans took to social media to express their concerns and write about panic buying (with varying degrees of irony).

Grocery stores in some parts of the country have already run out of stock and restaurant owners have faced higher prices.

Michael Xau, co-owner of Pho Viet restaurant in Washington, D.C., has been paying much more for his Sriracha orders in recent weeks.

“Usually when I bought one box it was about $30 to $32. Now it goes up to $50, which is almost double the price. If it keeps growing, we won’t be able to afford it,” Chau said.

If the price gets much higher, Chau says he will probably have to switch to another brand.

“But people are used to the taste right now. So when they try, they will immediately know,” he said.

Michael Chau says he has no choice but to leave Sriracha.

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Michael Chau says he has no choice but to leave Sriracha.

Ashish Valentine/NPR

Florence Lee, who was at the Csau restaurant waiting for a plate of pho, summed up her thoughts on the Sriracha exchange: “I was messing around.”

“Because that’s what I like, you should eat Hoisin sauce and Sriracha together!” she said.

Other food items may be affected too.

According to Guillermo Murray Tortarolo of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Guillermo Murray Tortarolo, who studies climate and ecosystems, the shortage is due to a bad chili crop in northern Mexico, where all the chili used in Sriracha comes from.

“Sriracha is actually made from a special variety of pepper that only grows in the southern United States and northern Mexico,” Murray Tortarolo said. “These red jalapenos are only grown for the first four months of the year and need highly controlled conditions, especially constant watering.”

Irrigation, of course, requires a lot of water, but northern Mexico is in its second year of drought.

“Already difficult conditions were pushed to the limit by two consecutive La Niña events. And the dry season was not only intense, but surprisingly long,” said Murray Tortarolo.

As a result, there was virtually no chili harvest this year. Murray Tortarolo considers it highly likely that climate change is a factor, although more research is needed to confirm this.

He said that if the drought continues, it is likely that prices for other products from the region, such as avocados, tomatoes and meat, will also rise.

This is a view of the La Boca Dam in Santiago, Mexico, in March. The lack of rain reduced the dam’s capacity by up to 10%, the lowest in 40 years.

JULIO CEZAR AGUILAR/AFP via Getty Images


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JULIO CEZAR AGUILAR/AFP via Getty Images

This is a view of the La Boca Dam in Santiago, Mexico, in March. The lack of rain reduced the dam’s capacity by up to 10%, the lowest in 40 years.

JULIO CEZAR AGUILAR/AFP via Getty Images

In addition to these conditions, the entire region, including the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, is suffering from “mega-drought”. And it is also related to climate change.

“It was the driest 22 years in the last 1,200 years,” said UCLA hydroclimatologist Park Williams. Williams recently took over study of megadroughtpublished in Climate change of nature.

He said the megadrought drying up U.S. reservoirs has made it harder for Mexico to cope with water shortages.

“We share the same climate, but we share the same water,” Williams said. “Therefore, over the past 23 years, as we have seen our largest reservoirs drain, this puts Mexico and Mexican agriculture at risk of even more water shortages than it would already be.”

It’s hard to say climate change is the cause of the drought, Williams said, but it certainly made things worse. His study estimates that about 40% of droughts can be attributed to anthropogenic climate change.

However, Williams said we can make a huge difference by limiting the scale of climate change.

“Limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius will put us in a much better position than if we let global warming get to 3 or 4 degrees Celsius.”

Thus, maintaining the heat of Sriracha may depend on the cooling of the planet.

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