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"The avocado is not responsible for the drought in Chile"

Last Friday, the producers and representatives of the Chilean avocado industry visited the Netherlands. The producers wanted to make it clear that the reports in local media, which state they are responsible for the drought suffered by the communities of Petorca, in Chile, are completely false, and unfair. 

During the meeting, the delegation emphasized that the main cause of water scarcity in the area was a drought that had affected the area between 2007 and 2014, which led to the removal of six million avocado trees. Therefore, they said, the drought was caused by the climate and not by any type of negligence on the part of the producers. One of the representatives even said that the avocado plantations helped attract the rains and, therefore, improved the environment of the region.

According to some publications, the producers have "built illegal pipe systems to steal water, and threatened environmental groups and civilians who protest respect in the Petorca area." According to these reports, the intensive production of avocados would have triggered a regional drought, leaving the locals without drinking water and the need to be supplied with trucks.

Given this, a delegation from the Chilean avocado industry of the Province of Petorca is touring Europe to ensure its customers that they are operating fairly. The delegation is made up of Oswaldo Marinao, the commercial director of the Chilean Embassy in The Hague; Alfonso Rios, the president of AgroExporta; Francisco Contardo, the Hass Avocado Committee manager in Chile; Guillermo Peña and Jose Luis Oyanadel, farmers and producers of avocado; and Ronald Bown, President of the Association of Fruit Exporters of Chile AG.

Ronald Bown wanted to make it clear that the publications are false, and even accused The Guardian of spreading incorrect information about the production of avocados in their article. "This situation is unfair," stated the President of the Association of Fruit Exporters of Chile AG (ASOEX). "We want to clearly inform our importers, sellers and consumers about this situation and let them know what the facts are."

A producer of avocados from Petorca, Jose Luis Oyanadel, said: "I think the situation described in the article is the opposite of what is really happening in Petorca, which has been one of the areas most affected by the drought in the country, and where we have prioritized drinking water for local people."

Bown said that Petorca was an agricultural region and that this defamatory campaign would particularly affect small and medium producers. "Any negative attention will only have an adverse effect on small producers in Chile. It will affect small fruit producers; that's why we're here protesting against this unfair portrayal of our business.

Alfonso Rios, President of Agropetorca, didn't deny that there used to be illegal pipelines and that Chile used to be full of them, but made it clear that those pipes had been closed a long time ago. "You can call the residents of Petorca and you'll find everybody has running water from their tap," he added.

There are no reports of threats
Regarding the reports of death threats against people who speak against avocado growers, Francisco Contardo Sfeir, the general manager of the Hass Avocado Committee of Chile, said they hadn't received any official complaint about this. Contardo Sfeir also dismissed the claims that avocados required 1,000 liters of water per kilo produced, noting that they only needed 389 liters.

"The Guardian cites a human rights report that does not make reference to Chile. We haven't been sued by any farmer or company, there is no formal legal complaint regarding threats. There has been a lot of noise about this, but the truth is that it can't be proved. There's no proof of it," Contardo said.

When asked about the existing malaise in the markets due to these accusations, the producers unanimously answered, "all opinions are respectable, but these publications are totally false and unjust, and we are here to reassure our customers and consumers."

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