Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Mexico Facing a Guacamole Crisis

Food
picture alliance / San Diego Union-Tribune / C. Neuman

By Andreas Knobloch

The U.S. has acquired quite a liking for the Mexican dip guacamole. Especially on the day of the Super Bowl, Americans devour the avocado-based dip in immense quantities. According to the Avocado Producers and Exporting Packers Association of Mexico (APEAM), 120,000 tons of avocados were imported by the U.S. for consumption during this year's Super Bowl alone. That's 20 percent more than in the previous year and four times the quantity of 2014.


The Americans' craving for avocado is increasingly forcing taco stalls in Mexico to serve their meat-filled tortillas with fake guacamole. The fake variety still contains the base ingredients of tomatoes, chili oil, salt, garlic and cilantro, but the avocados are substituted by a type of Mexican squash. The dip retains its green color and has a similar consistency and taste to the original. Nevertheless, "it still hurts," the online portal Chilango said.

Recipes akin to one published by food blogger Alejandra de Nava have been in circulation for years now. The uproar around fake guacamole, however, stems from the skyrocketing prices for avocados, making their use in guacamole almost a luxury.

Measly Harvests and Rising Demand

A decline in harvest yields and the rising demand from the U.S. are the culprits, avocado producer Pedro Bucio told the regional newspaper Diario de Coahuila. Supply and demand determine the price. "There are fewer avocados here in Mexico and this shortage has caused the increase in prices," Bucio explained. At the end of June, one kilo of avocados cost up to 100 pesos ($5.24, €4.67).

But Mexico's agriculture minister, Victor Villalobos, blames speculators for the rise in prices. The numbers, however, tell a different story.

The production of avocados in the first five months of this year was down 1.2 percent or 10,000 tons compared to that in the corresponding period last year. Exports, meanwhile, were up by 7.6 percent. In the last ten years, exports have quadrupled. Much of the demand originates from the U.S., where the consumption of avocados is increasing by about 15 percent every year.

In the U.S., avocados are considered "superfoods," which are rich in unsaturated fats, potassium and vitamin E. They also help keep cholesterol levels in check, strengthen the immune system and do not cause significant weight gain despite being a calorie bomb.

While four-fifths of all Mexican avocados are exported to the U.S. today, they were kept away from U.S. markets until 1997 for fear of pest infestations. Mexico sold $2.5 billion worth of avocados to the U.S. in the past year; that's more than the export of oil brought in.

Germany, on the other hand, imports its avocados predominantly from Peru, Chile, Spain and Israel.

Drug Cartels Join the Mix

Even Mexican drug cartels seem to want a piece of the avocado business. Due to its weather and geography, the Mexican state of Michoacan has become a hub for the production of synthetic drugs and, simultaneously, a "paradise" for the cultivation of avocados.

While drug cartels routinely threaten and extort money from farmers, avocado shipments are also often being attacked.

The situation has led some leading producers to form their own security services, the so-called autodefensas, which is a private paramilitary force.

Demand for more acreage has caused an increase in illegal deforestation. Moreover, the cultivation of avocados requires vast amounts of water, which is a scarce resource in the region to begin with and supplies have become increasingly limited due to changing climate patterns.

The problem of rising prices is not entirely new. Two years ago, bad harvests and huge international demand caused a dramatic increase in prices. After all, avocado consumption had increased not just in the U.S., Canada and the EU, but also in China and Japan. Mexico, as the world's largest exporter and the country with the highest per capita consumption of avocados, had even thought about importing the fruit. The average Mexican consumes more than seven kilos of avocados a year.

The importance of Mexico's avocado imports became even more apparent when U.S. President Donald Trump in May threatened to impose punitive tariffs on all Mexican imports, should Mexico not intensify its actions concerning migrants. He then called off his plans at the last minute after Mexico responded with a threat to drastically jack up import costs of avocados, painting a picture of a Super Bowl without guacamole. The downside: Many Mexicans have to content themselves with fake guacamole because of the overwhelming U.S. demand.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Deutsche Welle.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a White House Clean Energy Investment Summit on June 16, 2015 in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

With presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden's climate platform becoming increasingly ambitious thanks to nonstop grassroots pressure, fossil fuel executives and lobbyists are pouring money into the coffers of President Donald Trump's reelection campaign in the hopes of keeping an outspoken and dedicated ally of dirty energy in the White House.

Read More Show Less
The Food and Drug Administration is now warning against more than 100 potentially dangerous hand sanitizers.
Antonio_Diaz / Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now warning against more than 100 potentially dangerous hand sanitizers.

Read More Show Less
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a news conference on July 1, 2020 in New York City. Byron Smith / Getty Images

While the nation overall struggles with rising COVID cases, New York State is seeing the opposite. After peaking in March and April and implementing strict shutdowns of businesses, the state has seen its number of positive cases steadily decline as it slowly reopens. From coast-to-coast, Governor Andrew Cuomo's response to the crisis has been hailed as an exemplar of how to handle a public health crisis.

Read More Show Less
A whale shark swims in the Egyptian Red Sea. Derek Keats / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Gavin Naylor

Sharks elicit outsized fear, even though the risk of a shark bite is infinitesimally small. As a marine biologist and director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, I oversee the International Shark Attack File – a global record of reported shark bites that has been maintained continuously since 1958.

Read More Show Less
A girl sits under a temporary shade made by joining two bed in Churu, Rajasthan on June 4, 2019. Temperatures in the Indian desert city hit 50 degrees C (122 F) for the second time in three days, sending residents scrambling for shade. MONEY SHARMA / AFP via Getty Images

Current efforts to curb an infectious disease show the potential we have for collective action. That action and more will be needed if we want to stem the coming wave of heat-related deaths that will surpass the number of people who die from all infectious diseases, according to a new study, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
America Pikas are found from the Sierra Nevada to the Rocky Mountains, and have been migrating to higher elevations. Jon LeVasseur / Flickr / Public Domain

By Jenny Morber

Caribbean corals sprout off Texas. Pacific salmon tour the Canadian Arctic. Peruvian lowland birds nest at higher elevations.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Biologists are studying the impact of climate change on the Nenets and their reindeer herds. Deutsche Welle

Biologist Egor Kirillin is on a special mission. Deep in the Siberian wilderness in the Russian Republic of Sakha, he waits on the Olenjok river until reindeer come thundering into the water.

Read More Show Less