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Avocados stir up controversy in Ecuador

Avocado consumption in Central and North America is increasing. This means that the deforestation of primary forests in countries like Mexico, one of the world's leading distributors of avocado, also increases.

Mexico has 26,300 hectares of land devoted to avocado crops and the country aspires to increase this amount by the end of the year. Farmers are cutting oak and pine trees to create avocado orchards so as to supply the large demand there is for this fruit. 

This would be damaging to the biodiversity that inhabits these areas. One of the species threatened is the monarch butterfly, which has had a decline in population in recent years due to deforestation.

A study by the Center for Research in Environmental Geography at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) shows that the country has lost 32,000 hectares (ha) of forests between 1976 and 2005. Between 2000 and 2005 things accelerated and the country started to lose 509 hectares per year.

Consumption of this fruit in North America increased to an average of 8 kilos per person per year, while in Ecuador it stands at 1 kilo. 

Ecuador producers plan to increase avocado crops to start exporting it. According to a study carried out by the National Autonomous Agricultural Rearch Center (Iniap) the avocado is profitable if the seeding quality is high. Ecuador has about 6,000 hectares of land devoted to this crop and the country's goal is to have 10,000 hectares and to export most of it. 

Ecuador has 30 varieties of avocado, but the most widely marketed varieties in the country are two: the fuerte and the hass avocado. The first is a hybrid variety that has a green color and a compact pulp. 

The second variety is pink with bumps, but takes a black hue when it ripens. The markets prefer the Hass variety because it does not decompose as fast as the other varieties and because its crops don't have health problems. It also has nutritional benefits and 25% more oil than the other varieties.

The Hass variety is marketed internationally. Peru exports its avocados to different markets, such as Spain, the United Kingdom, France, United States, Costa Rica, Canada, China, Japan, and 25 other countries. Annual sales amounted to USD 306.1 million (175,739 tons), while Mexico made USD 150 million in 2015.

According to Pablo Viteri, a researcher of the Fruit and Culture program at the Iniap, Ecuador must make a plan that includes the production of plants, acquisition of technologies, and the necessary credits so that farmers can devote themselves to this activity and compete.

Source: El Comercio
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