Over the past 1-2 years avocados have become a new trendy food making it’s way across the United States. As people learn about the positive health benefits of this deliciously savory fruit, it’s consumption has nearly tripled. According to The Atlantic, in the 1990s the average American consumed 1.5 pounds of avocados each year, however, now we see average consumption per person skyrocket to 5 pounds of avocados annually. The Washington Post recognizes the increase in avocado consumption and links it’s boost in popularity to a lifted ban on fruit imports from Mexico, healthfulness, and growing popularity in restaurants nationwide.
From a certain perspective some may see this increase in avocado consumption
as a good thing: more people getting more nutrients is awesome, and this is where I agree! Avocados are considered a super fruit, and provide key nutrients, healthy fats and a variety of vitamins including vitamins K, C and potassium. However, your daily avocado toast may be hurting the planet more than you think, with impacts on climate change, deforestation and human welfare.
In the past few years we have seen a rise in avocado prices accompanied by America’s growing consumption. This is because avocados are not an easy crop to grow and climate change affects how much of these precious fruits we can grow. Food and Wine magazine says that 95% of avocados grown in the United States come from California. However California is facing an ongoing drought that puts farmers of all sorts in a hard place. Food and Wine magazine states that Avocados, as well as almonds, take a lot of water to grow, approximately 74 gallons of water are used to make every pound of avocados. Because of the extremely high water cost of these crops, California farmers are turning their heads to the thought of producing these trendy treats. Different crops may be more lucrative investments for farmers, urging them to replace avocados for more dependable crops and The Huffington Post suggests farmers may abandon the fruit all together. As drought becomes more and more prevalent, avocado-growing regions may have to re-think their production in the allocation of resources such as land, water and fertilizer for long-term interests.
In addition to the contribution of California growers to the nations avocado supply, Mexico and Chile are also large providers of this savory fruit. Buying internationally is lucrative for American distributors but can be risky depending on reliability of outside suppliers. For example, this past week in Mexico there was a labor strike in Michoacan, Mexico’s top producing region of avocadoes, and production came to a halt. While the US usually imports around 70 million tons of avocados, in the past week they have only imported 13 million(NBC San Diego). Unfair working conditions have led unhappy Mexican farm workers to strike as they demanded higher prices for their avocados(NBC San Diego). American’s feel this pressure as they see avocado prices skyrocket to $3 per fruit, with prices that are likely to stay for an estimated two weeks(NBC San Diego).
In addition to the unfair working conditions surrounding the
production of avocados comes the ethical decision to farm these fruits. Increasing demand for avocados has led to deforestation in Mexico and affects Chile in similar ways as California, for lack of water leads to unfit conditions to grow avocados. Plots of forested land in Mexico are cut down in order to make room for avocado plantations to keep up with high demand says The Big Story.
With the rise in price and the increased difficulty of growing our new favorite green fruit comes question of what is best for preserving our planet? Will we continue to consume more than is sustainably possible? Or will Avocado prices continue to rise and become a luxury food sitting with escargot and caviar on the tables of the culinary elite?