A recent French documentary has shed some light on the dark side of the avocado-growing world. Potassium, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats... the avocado has everything.
They're delicious, nutrient-rich and pretty – the kind of fruit that can make any dish look good. It's no wonder they've become a phenomenon over the past few years. And it's not just in the United States that we've seen the craze grow, France is the biggest European consumer of avocados, eating about three pounds per person per year.
Before they get to us in the United States or Europe, avocados typically have to take a long journey from Peru, Chile or Mexico. Three countries that are pretty far away, far enough away to have serious ecological and human effects.
We all know that avocado cultivation has decimated forests in Mexico, and that the cartels are making life hard for farmers. A documentary aired in France, L'avocat, un fruit qui fait sa loi (The avocado, a fruit that makes its own rules), has since confirmed the issue.
A war between avocado producers and traffickers broke out in the avocado capital of Tancitaro, Mexico in 2013. Since then, the city has been under the control of self-defense militias – basically, farmers are having to arm themselves against cartels that normally go for drugs.
Avocados bring in lots of money, and the traffickers want in on it. You can get around 800 pesos per acre. Mexican cartels are now turning to avocados to get money, and they're willing to go as far as committing murder and extortion for them.
The fruit also causes problems for the environment, specifically in Chile, the second largest avocado producer in the world. Big producers are destroying forests to plant trees, and avocado trees need lots, and I mean lots, of water.
One single fruit requires twice as much water as any person. To produce three avocados, you need 264 gallons of water, and let's not even think about the carbon footprint that would leave.
The avocado is so thirsty that it's even taking away from the residents of certain regions in Chile. Water is privatized in the country, and to get access to it, you have to go through the state.
Of course, exporters who bring in lots of money are going to be preferred over smaller farmers and regular citizens. It got so bad that Chileans took to the streets recently to protest the lack of water. More reasons to think twice before buying avocados, especially in areas where they can't be grown locally.