Whether you’re a hipster or a vegan, a health nut or an environmentalist, chances are you love avocado as much as Kanye loves himself. You enjoy it at brunch, on your bread, on your smoothie and even on your face. It’s hard to resist. Avocado is just that flippin’ good.
Millennials are increasingly obsessed with it (have you heard of the new avocado cafe opening in Amsterdam this month?), and the numbers agree: over the past decade, the consumption in the US alone has more than quadrupled, reaching over a million tonnes of a year. That’s a staggering amount of guacamole.
However, it turns out, the economic and environmental expenses that go behind avocados are much more complex that you’d expect.
Not only has the increasing demand lead to vast amounts of deforestation, it has also been causing water shortages and even encouraging illegal activity. Because Mexico is the largest producer of avocados in the world, its population is the main victim of all the consequences.
Farmers are thinning out, and despite the Mexican government’s attempts at regulating the practice, they are eradicating vast amounts of pine forests to plant avocado trees, in order to meet the ever-growing demand. They first plant them under the canopy and then trim back to the forest, making it almost impossible to detect the illegal activity from above.
Money is the driving force behind it all. In fact, the avocado market is so lucrative that even deadly drug cartels, such as the Knights Templar, are involved in the business. Bizarre, but true.
However, Mexico is not the only victim of the almost sinful fruit. Due to the large amount of water required to grow the trees, the ongoing drought in California has been having devastating effects on the crop, damaging the local economy as well as the environment.
In fact, it takes a staggering 272 litres of water to grow avocado trees. That’s a ridiculous amount of water, especially if you compare it to the 24 litres needed to grow half a kilo of tomatoes.
So it’s not just the meat and dairy industry that have damaging consequences for the environment; now you can add avocado to the group too. It’s a sad reality, one that many might struggle to accept, I’m sure.
But now at least we understand why the extra guacamole is so pricey.