Delicate, versatile, creamy, emerald, and rich in nutrients, the superfood of the century is…Mr. Avocado. When the clean-eating culture became a thing, avocados’ consumption suddenly grew and expanded across the globe as an emblem of the whole and unprocessed alternative diet. Despite its nourishing properties, the avocado industry presents darker sides that you might not be aware of. Apart from consuming a lot of water, criminal groups are transforming this industry into a lucrative crop. When carried on for longer, this situation will end up being harmful to the land and the people. If stopping avocado consumption doesn’t seem like a solution, how should we contrast the Avo-Gate?
In the last five or ten years, the popularity of avocados has increased massively in North America and in Europe, where avocados travel in industrial quantities from overseas, especially from Chile that has the ideal environment for them to grow round and tasty. In 2020, the volume of imported avocados reached a new record in most European countries, like the Netherlands, France, and Italy. In the UK, the avocado market has quickly developed over the last years to the point that, in 2018, the BBC dedicated to the tropical fruit a fun article entitled ‘A cultural history of the avocado.’ Despite Brexit elevated costs for export and import and made trading more competitive, the United Kingdom remains the second-largest market for avocados.
The increasing demand for avocados induced supermarkets to implement the restock of the product on their shelves that is a must-have in people’s shopping list. Indeed, thanks to vitamins, potassium, and good fats, the avocado has a nourishing power that awards him as the perfect fit in any healthy diet. Apart from being good for the body, avocado is good for the gram where its trend exploded. The avocado is one of the most recurrent ingredients of So-Instagrammable meals in the series #healthyfood #eatwell.
Avocados and Sustainability
At present, the avocado industry is unsustainable. The water footprint is the first issue involved in the avocado’s production. Like most exotic fruits, avocados grow in subtropical and tropical temperatures and require conspicuous water resources that lack in those hot environments. Besides, avocados need even more water than most tropical veggies and fruit, approximately 70 litres each, which can only come from supplementary irrigation. In some areas of South America, like in the Chilean region of Petorca, avocado plantations caused drought.
Today, what’s left in those areas is dust and dead scrub. So are rivers that have vanished, leaving empty basins in the same spots they once used to flow. But the most shocking part of this water deprivation is that locals struggle to have enough water to survive due to the priority given to the intensive cultivation of avocados. Plus, Chile’s statement regarding “private property over water use rights” has intensified the problem, making it harder to be solved. The avocado industry’s impact on the ecosystem is preoccupying. Also, there is a socio-economical implication that the fast-growing avocado supply chain has triggered. About that, in 2019, the Netflix original series Rotten released ‘The Avocado War,’ a 56-minutes documentary, reporting some unsettling truths behind one of the most dynamic and wealthy industries of the last years.
The episode gives insights into the Mexican export of avocados which turned into warfare when cartels tapped into the industry and took control over the supply chain. The development of unethical practices within the avocado industry goes against smaller enterprises, restricts human rights, and damages the planet.
Conflict Free Avocados
Becoming avocado-free is not the solution. It would, eventually, disrupt a whole piece of the culinary economy, steal many people from their job, and, also, we don’t want to cut avocado out of our eating habits. What you can do, instead, to contrast the misconduct of some avocado suppliers is:
- Choose the right season to eat avocados. Despite being seasonless, every type of avocado grows in higher quantities in some specific periods of the year. You should at least be aware that the Haas Avocado - number one on the market – reaches the peak of production between January and March. In those months, its flavour is at its best.
- Favour local and certified suppliers. The processes that can guarantee avocados’ quality and ethicality have still a long way to go. However, some emerging projects are trying to raise their voice to regulate the avocado’s supply chain. Sicilia Avocado has revolutionised the Italian way of growing Made in Sicily avocados, known for their excellent quality and taste. In the UK, The Avocado Company has recently started engaging in the sourcing and supply of avocados. Supporting these cruelty-free initiatives can stop the actions of unethical suppliers.
- Grow it yourself. It’s fun and easy to do. Growing your avocado tree at home is possible. By placing an avocado seed into a glass of water first and potting it into soil later, you will grow an avocado plant. Don’t expect it to make fruits, though, since it might take over a decade to happen.