Mexican state of Michoacan:

Popularity and demand for avocados raises environmental concerns

In the western Mexican state of Michoacan, we find another region where avocados are being grown. Michoacan is one of the largest avocado-growing regions in Mexico. And while the fruit’s boom in worldwide popularity has brought money to the growing region, it’s also caused problems for the environment.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the amount of agricultural land dedicated to growing avocado around the world grew from 381,000 hectares in 2006 to 564,000 hectares in 2016.

A large part of that land is in Mexico, where the avocado originates from. Avocado trees are planted in endless uniform rows in the fields around the city of Uruapan.

Nearly 2 million tonnes of avocados have been grown on some 200,000 hectares over the past year. And the surface area used to produce them is still growing. Mexican biologist Arturo Chacon Torres, founder of the campaign group Academia Mexicana de Impacto Ambiental, says avocado plantations continue to stretch into forests and mountain ranges.

It’s estimated that between 600 and 1,000 hectares of forest are being destroyed in the region per year to be turned into agricultural fields. Piles of small woodchips remain as traces of the destruction. In addition, the fruit requires lots of water.

There are multiple small-time avocado growers in the region, several of them working illegally. In 2018, Mexican authorities caught several producers who were illegally felling pine trees in order to use the area to grow avocados. mentions a 2012 Mexican study -commissioned by the government- that states that increased avocado production has contributed to a loss in diversity as well as environmental pollution and soil erosion. It has also damaged the natural water cycle and endemic species in the area.

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