Climate Change May Be Responsible for Sriracha Hot Sauce Shortage

The region where crucial peppers are grown is experiencing the worst megadrought in at least 1200 years


The producer of one the most popular sriracha hot sauces, a staple condiment in many homes and restaurants, announced there will be a short supply this summer because of drought in Mexico, reports NPR’s Ashish Valentine. 

Huy Fong Foods Inc., the manufacturer of a sauce referred to as “Sriracha” in the United States, wrote a letter to its customers in April announcing it was halting orders through the summer, per NBC News’ Rob Wile. Sriracha is actually a type of Thai chili sauce, made from a variety of chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, and then sometimes aged.  It is not strictly a brand name and simply refers to this variety of sauces which originated in the Si Racha district of Thailand. Other sriracha sauces manufactured in Thailand are still available—the problem is localized to Huy Fong and any manufacturers sourcing from the same area as Huy Fong.

“Due to weather conditions affecting the quality of chili peppers, we now face a more severe shortage of chili,” the letter states. “Unfortunately, this is out of our control and without this essential ingredient we are unable to produce any of our products (Chili Garlic, Sambal Oelek, and Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce).”

Orders submitted after April 19, 2022 will be scheduled for after Labor Day in the order they were received, per the letter. 

Peppers for the Huy Fong Sriracha hot sauce only grow in the southern U.S. and northern Mexico—a region currently experiencing the worst megadrought in at least 1,200 years, exacerbated by human-caused climate change. The drought has led to extremely dry soil that cannot sustain strong agriculture, along with reservoirs that keep water flowing in the south and southwest at water levels nearly 75% lower than normal.

"These red jalapeños are only grown during the first four months of the year, and they need very controlled conditions, particularly constant irrigation,” Guillermo Murray Tortarolo, a climate and ecosystems researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico tells NPR. "The already difficult conditions were pushed over the limit by two consecutive La Niña events. And the dry season has not only been intense, but also remarkably long.”

La Niña, a large-scale cooling of ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, typically brings drier and warmer winters across the southern parts of North America and colder, wetter conditions in the north. The current La Niña season started around September 2020, and the World Meteorological Organization predicts a 50 to 60 percent chance that it will continue from July to September 2022. 

Huy Fong Foods processes 100 million pounds of peppers each year, a representative wrote in a statement to the New York Times’ Christine Chung, and produces 20 million bottles of their Sriracha annually. The hot sauce has become so popular that companies like Blue Diamond Almond have created sriracha-flavored products, and other North American hot sauce manufacturers now produce their own version of the condiment. Huy Fong may be uniquely impacted, since the company uses red jalapeños which only grow in the region of the southern US and northern Mexico affected bv the drought. Other foods grown in the region, like avocados and tomatoes, are also being affected.

When the shortage was announced, fans took to social media to commiserate. 

Sriracha shortage ruining my life,” one user writes on Twitter. 

“Code red, the sriracha shortage has already begun. I repeat: the sriracha shortage has begun,” writes another, with a photo of an empty shelf and a "temporarily out of stock" sign.

"We are still endeavoring to resolve this issue that has been caused by several spiraling events, including unexpected crop failure from the spring chili harvest," Huy Fong Foods writes in a statement to NBC. "We hope for a fruitful fall season.” 

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