Avocado water consumption is large and increasing in Mexico, as growth of avocado fields is unregulated. A Mexican citizen recently filed an anonymous complaint with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation about the “ecocide” being caused by that growth.
Most production occurs in the state of Michoacán where (as of 2017) approximately 50 percent of the planted area is considered illegal because the land use is unauthorized. Growth is increasing in the state of Jalisco, and, overall, growth is expected to continue at almost 4 percent annually.
Along with the increasing water use in areas that are not water rich, loss of habitat is threatening to decimate the local ecosystem through loss of pine and pine-oak forests and mountain mesophilic forests that support oyamel fir (a rare forest that supports overwintering Monarch butterfly colonies). Models of future growth show intrusion into the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve as orchards have already intruded into the area buffer zones.
A study out of Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo about the blue and green water footprint of avocado production in the region concluded that avocado irrigation in one particular area in Michoacán is driving water scarcity for other water users. In addition, the water footprint of irrigated orchards was 2.6 times larger than that of orchards that rely on rainwater, yet increased crop yields were insignificant.
Avocado consumption in the US is driving the sales, with $3 billion in sales from Michoacán, with most production concentrated in the hands of larger landholders. With that has come a criminal element that uses extortion and violence to control small holder farmers, packers and others in the industry.
Considering all the resources (people, water, land, ecology, etc.) that go into producing avocados, and how much is wasted, it is truly a tragedy that is unfolding in front of our eyes that the US and Mexico have an ability to confront and control.
This is an especially good time to reflect on our eating practices and change our food waste habits. Avocados seem to be perfectly ripe for about a day, so plan accordingly and don’t add to the tragedy.