Avocado shortage hits local restaurants, and Polk County's own "Guacamole Guy"

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - Google "Guacamole Guy," and the internet will lead you to Winter Haven, home of Sergio Cruz.

"I do work a lot with Florida Avocados," he said. "I make homemade guacamole based with Florida Avocados only.  I do the picking, the processing, the making, the selling -- everything."

In and around his home, Cruz has been able to create a name for himself by gathering what Floridians refer to as "alligator pears" from his neighbors in trees like these.

That is until this season, when his crop crumbled under the weight of an almost invisible insidious insect: The Ambrosia beetle bug.

"That's why you don't see it," said Cruz, pulling back the bark and pointing to the beetle damage.  "It goes right through the bark and it feeds right through the tree."

Within three weeks of the first bite, the tree is dead. Cruz said there's nothing that can stop it.

"Eighty to 90 percent of all the avocados that I picked last year, they're completely gone," he said, "dead to the ground because of the Ambrosia beetle bug."

So his locally-sourced guacamole won't be as plentiful. But he said the larger-scale farmers in South Florida are still hoping their crops come in OK.

Weather in California has farmers there calling for a lighter than normal crop. That concerned the folks at Chipotle, whose investors were alerted that the supply and demand cycle could impact their bottom line. It should be noted that none of the restaurateurs we talked to today say they're going to be taking this off their menu.

"Its every year," said Juan Yannuzzi, owner of Poblano's Mexican Grill and Bar in Brandon. "Always the price of avocados goes up."

At Yannuzzi's Place, where Hass avocados are used to prepare guacamole tableside, the prices they pay are at a premium, and the fruit isn't as good

"You've got to hand pick each one," he said. "And sometimes you're having to wait on 10 to 15 avocados that are not quite ready to be used yet."

But they aren't going to take it off the menu. Neither is Chipotle, of course.

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