Avocado or Avoca-don’t?

Ah the Avocado.

Who knew one little green fruit could bring the world so much happiness. Avo on toast. Green smoothies. Salmon and avocado salad. The list goes on. I am no stranger to the delights of this creation of nature, however light has recently been shone on the havoc this trendy giant berry (yep, it’s a berry) could be recking all over the place.

I was always aware of the airmiles packaged in with my favourite green friend, but I have to shamefully admit I always kind of just, ignored it. I get the train. I walk a lot. I’m allowed to splurge on my salad toppings. Right? Wrong. I have discovered the truth that lurks behind the avocado, and it’s more than just a quick trip from Spain.

Firstly, I would like to apologise in advance for this post as it my ruin your healthy eating best friend as it has done for me. But I also implore you not to stop reading. You’ll feel guitly now anyway, so you might as well carry on.

California is responsible for growing 80% of the worlds avocados, big thanks to you guys over there. However one of the biggest problems in avo cultivation is how much water the plants actually need in order to survive. 1lb of avocado takes 72 gallons of water to grow, which is insane, especially once you realise that 1lb of avocados is about 2 or 3. I can get through more than that in a week. This has led to Californians experiencing an extremely dry spell, as the demand for avocados increases and drinks up all their water. Sorry about that.

Due to this fact, production turned to Mexico and Chile to bring home the bacon, or bring home the avocado in this instance, which doesn’t have quite the same ring. As no one can seem to get enough of the stuff, the amount of avocado trees planted has risen from 9,000 acres in 1993 to 71,000 acres in 2014, and that’s just in Chile alone. And although part of you might be thinking ‘yay more trees!’ because, yay, more trees, this has actually only been made possible through desforestation of previous trees, to make room for the planting of the Hass avocado tree. Yep, we tore old trees down to make way for new ones. Madness. So whilst planting trees might sound like progress, it’s actually a step in the wrong direction and essentially completely unneccesary. 0 points for humankind. Like California, Chile also suffers with the percentage of water needed to cultivate the exotic fruit and has turned to actually draining water from rivers and streams to keep up with the demand from the thirsty trees. Is it really so important for us to have an exciting addition to our meals that we are willing to drain rivers and streams, and cut down thousands of acres of trees, just to get our fix?

If that’s not enough to make you think twice about ‘adding avocado for £1 extra’, the troubles in Mexico might be enough to change your mind. Most of the production from Mexico is concentrated in one state called Michoacan. Avocado production in this area is so dangerous and expensive, the avocado has coined the nickname ‘green gold’. Because of this, much of it is controlled by a drug cartel, who have enforced taxes on land, farming and avocado distribution, with terrible punishments, that go as far as murder, if debts are left unpaid (I swear I’m not making this up). It has gotten so bad that the phrase ‘blood guacamole’ has become all too common (though I’m sure if Leo DiCaprio made a sequel to Blood Diamond, more people would listen him about the subject. I definitely would.)

So when considering deforestation, draught and even murder as impacts from the high demand of the avocado; and despite all it’s glorious qualities and endless list of uses; I think I’ll look a little closer to home next time I need a topping my toast. I always did love jam anyway.

*Originally published August 31st 2016

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