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Mexico's avocado boom attracts drug cartels

Malaga and Granada are starting to harvest avocados these days. Production will grow until April once the harvest starts in Alacante, Valencia, Castello and even Amposta, where there is a small farm that grows them. However, they can be found throughout the whole year on supermarket shelves, just like any other fruit or vegetable. Avocado and guacamole have become the great stars of food globalization in recent years.

Virtually all of this Mediterranean harvest, which will amount to some 70 thousand tons, will be exported to the countries of Northern Europe, which pay higher prices for products that were harvested two or three days ago and are at the point of perfect maturation. Here, Spanish consumers will eat avocados imported mainly from Peru, Israel, South Africa, and some 40 thousand tons from Mexico, the largest producer in the world. A small figure compared to the 2 million tons that Mexico exports to the United States. To meet the US demand in the Super Bowl alone, Mexico exports 100 thousand tons of avocado to the US.

The avocado boom in Mexico, according to press reports, has attracted the interest of drug cartels. However, there is a bigger problem. Virtually all of these avocados are produced in the state of Michoacan, where, according to Blanca Lemus, a retired doctor from the local university, "large producers have grabbed most of the lands to produce this fruit for export. There are no more small farmers, now they work as laborers of the elites and of the packers, which are owned by Americans and Israelis."

According to the National Institute for Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock Research, based in Uruapan, the world capital of avocados, the expansion of this crop has caused the deforestation (often by arson) of 500 hectares per year. "A permanent damage that has come to stay", Blanca continued. "The images are distressing. Water is increasingly scarce and polluted, and this paradise, that had a temperate to cold climate has become hot and its air dry." Avocados spread everywhere, on the slopes of the hills, at the top of the hills, and also, on the slopes of the mountains, where, acrobatically, they force them to grow horizontally.

A boom that turned into a monoculture has many risks. There are climate issues (like this year, in which the floods have caused a 20% drop in production), the appearance of another more competitive region, and a demand that can't be sustained ... What then? It will be another bubble, with a difference: banks can be re-injected with money, but not the land. 

Source: El Periódico de Catalunya

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