Sriracha hot sauce will be thin on the shelves, as chili pepper crops fail in unseasonable conditions.
Back in April, Huy Fong Foods, the company that makes the wildly popular sriracha sauce, sent out a letter announcing that they were struggling to get chili peppers due to unspecified ‘weather conditions.’
“Unfortunately, this is out of our control and without this essential ingredient we are unable to produce any of our products,” the letter read. It continued that any orders for sriracha, samba oelek, or chili garlic sauce placed after April would be put on hold until September.
Huy Fong Foods usually gets its peppers from Mexico which, like much of western North America, is more than 20 years into a ‘megadrought.’ This year, Mexico is seeing the worst single year of drought it’s ever seen. Commercial pepper cultivation requires constant watering during the flowering and fruiting stages via a drip irrigation system which, while efficient, is still more water-intensive than many farmers can currently sustain.
It takes 100 million pounds of peppers to make the 20 million bottles of sriracha Huy Fong Foods produces per year.
Since the news broke in early May, fans of the spicy red sauce have stocked up, meaning the shelves at many stores are now empty and will be until mid-September. Restaurants are no longer putting free sriracha on the tables, but charging for small sides of it. Single bottles of sriracha are already going for $20 on auction sites.
While hot sauce may not seem like a big deal, the root cause is frightening. The rising temperatures of the current climate crisis are and will continue to threaten food availability around the world. Staples like grains, potatoes, and cereals all need more water than peppers, meaning their cultivation is threatened too. And even in areas that aren’t experiencing drought, rising ambient temperatures threaten all kinds of food production.