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Facing accusations of causing a drought

Chile: Avocado exporters and producers travel to Europe

The text reproduced below is a report from the Fresh Produce Journal on the visit of representatives of the Chilean avocado industry to Europe.

Avocado producers in Chile have rejected claims that blaming them for leaving the local communities of Petorca without drinking water, calling them unfair.

The Guardian and other European news media published information indicating that the producers, who export avocados to England, have been accused of constructing illegal pipeline systems to steal water and threatened environmental groups and civilians protesting this in the area of Petorca.

According to the reports, the intensive avocado production would have triggered a regional drought, leaving villagers without any water except some contaminated drinking water that is delivered to them in water supply trucks.

A delegation from the Chilean avocado industry of the Province of Petorca is touring Europe to assure its customers that they are operating fairly.

The delegation emphasized that the main cause of water scarcity in the area is a drought that affected the area between 2007 and 2014, which led to the removal of six million avocado trees.

"This situation is unfair," stated Ronald Bown, 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."

Bown and a group of producers and exporters have accused The Guardian of spreading incorrect information about the production of avocados in their article.

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."

Alfonso Rios, the President of Agropetorca, said that the illegal pipelines had been closed a long time ago, and that Chile was full of them. "You can call the residents of Petorca and you'll find everybody has running water from their tap," he added.

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.

"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 is no evidence to prove it."

Contardo Sfeir also dismissed the claims that avocados required 1,000 liters of water per kilo produced, noting that they only needed 389 liters.

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 have a human effect on small fruit producers, and that's why we're here protesting against this unfair portrayal of our business. We don't understand this representation," he added.

The President of ASOEX said that the producers were subject to several regulatory bodies, including the Rainforest Alliance. Meanwhile, the British Retail Consortium and the retailer Lidl said they would investigate the claims made in the report.

Source: Asoex

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