The avocado is now the 6th most consumed fruit in the world and is highly recommended by dieticians for its virtues for the skin, eyesight and heart, and against cancer. Its world production has increased drastically, from 3.7 million tons in 2010 to 7.2 in 2019. Western countries are the main importers of this fruit, in particular the United States, followed by France and the United Kingdom. United. In 2018, more than 377,000 tons, or 80% of Mexican production, was sent to North America, 13% more than in previous years. However, this production, mainly from Mexico, which happens to be the 1st producer in the world, raises several ethical and environmental concerns. First, because it comes mainly from Latin America, and mainly exported to the United States and Europe, transport is very energy-intensive. By boat then truck, this export generates a large quantity of greenhouse gases, not to mention the refrigeration chain which must be respected. In addition, the avocado being a very fragile fruit, it requires a lot of packaging to be properly preserved during transport.
The state of Michoacan, in Mexico, owns the majority of avocado plantations in the country, that to say 90%. This state in the south-west of the country is a mountainous region that allows production throughout the year, with high rainfall from June to September. However, this region is also an important transit route for drug cartels. The high value of the avocado thus leads to armed conflicts between cartel and producers, which range from racketeering to killings, including the laying of anti-personnel mines. To fight against these land grabbing attempts, avocado producers try to defend themselves, sometimes in vain.
These human conflicts are accompanied by worrying environmental issues. Indeed, there are some illegal plantations that generate the deforestation of thousands of hectares of forest in Michoacan. INIFAP researcher Luis Mario describes a common practice among forest owners of sowing avocado trees under the trees and then cutting them down to leave the avocado trees exposed. It is estimated that there were 15,000 hectares of illegal plantation in 2018 in this Mexican state. Sometimes, intentional fires are even caused which ravage the forests with the aim of planting avocado trees. Mexican law does not prohibit planting on forest land when the trees have been ravaged by fire. Finally, there is a strong use of pesticides for this type of plantation.
Another major concern of this production is the drought it generates. In Chile, but also in Spain or South Africa, the inhabitants accuse the sector of being the cause of serious droughts. The avocado is a fruit whose cultivation requires large quantities of water, approximately 100,000 liters per day and per hectare, whereas in these countries, some inhabitants are unable to meet their own vital needs in water. In Andalusia, the problem is all the more serious as some researchers fear a hydrological collapse in the region.