For an absurd amount of time, I thought the avocado was a vegetable; it turns out, it’s a fruit. After that embarrassing fact was made known to me, I began learning other aspects of what is called the “green gold” down in Mexico, specifically the state of Michoacán. Archeologists have found the seeds of the avocado dating back to Peru around 750 B.C. From there, it was the Aztecs of soon-to-be Mexico and Central America who, around 500 BC, eventually gave it a Latin name that was eventually changed when the conquistadors came from Spain. The Spaniards eventually renamed the fruit to aguacate, or in English, avocado.
The fruit remained popular among the Central and South American areas, but it wasn’t until the 1900’s that the commercialization of the avocado into the United States and Canada began.
Originally, the avocado targeted the wealthy, but as the 1900s went on, the fruit became more mainstream. In the ’80s and ’90s, when a health kick began, the avocado gained huge notoriety but then around the late ’90s into the 2000s, the popularity fell, but demand remained to an extent.
In 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lifted a 90-year-old ban of importing avocados from Mexico into the United States, which sent the avocado all over the country. This first angered California growers who were supplying most of the country with the fruit. However, the move was pre-emptive because soon enough, California couldn’t grow enough to keep up with demand.
Thank you, Mexico.
So, all is well and good, right? Well, not exactly. Producing avocados takes an enormous amount of environmental resources to cultivate. For starters, it takes approximately 72 gallons of water to grow just two medium-sized avocados. On Superbowl Sunday – the most popular day for avocados – around 200 million pounds of the fruit is consumed.
Using this math of water usage, it is estimated that to grow enough avocados for Superbowl Sunday in the United States, it takes: 14,260,000,000 gallons of water. That’s 14.26 billion gallons of water for one single afternoon. Not to mention the time, effort, energy and distribution that goes into sending the avocados from Mexico to the United States so we can grab them at our local grocery store.
In addition, due to the synthetic drugs that have been hitting the streets in America, the drug cartels of Mexico have taken a hit to an extent regarding income in the drug game. Therefore, it has been well documented that the cartels have moved into extorting avocado growers, the farmers, and even the truckers who grow, cultivate and ship the product.
Cartels have been known to kidnap and kill the farmers’ children, relatives, or anyone involved if protection fees aren’t paid. In Michoacan, which is where 80% of Mexico’s exported avocados come from, it has been noted that some farmers are exploited by all four cartels at once, all claiming that they owe them payment to be protected from the other cartel. In the end, there is no protection.
After the avocados are grown and packaged up, it is common for the trucks to be stolen, only adding to the headaches and costs of shipping the avocados to the states. The avocado trade has become dangerous.
Now, I am in no way trying to shame anyone for eating avocados or to make someone feel bad, but everything comes at a cost. Sometimes, we are completely unaware of the costs of what we are doing and have no control over it. We may think, well, how come we don’t grow more avocados here in the United States? Well, that comes down to available land, as well as the climate. California produces 90% of our domestic supply, but that is still way short of the demand.
The truth of the matter is, the climate and temperature in Mexico is perfect for production. Unfortunately, the wrong players have entered the game.
But in the end, we all like our avocados, sometimes it’s just the cost of doing business, and everyone wants a cut. It’s always good to know the amount of work, labor, effort, and resources put into producing what we enjoy. Most of the time, there is always much more than what meets the eye.
Featured Image by Kjokkenutstyr.net via Creative Commons.