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Mexico’s avocado boom: Is it sustainable?

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Avocado production is booming in Mexico, with growing markets in the U.S., Canada and Japan. Photo: Getty

Once the engine of the Mexican economy, oil production is in decline, and the auto sector is coming to terms with protectionist threats from the White House.

That leaves the mighty avocado, the most Mexican of fruits, to sell well abroad.

The country’s second-biggest agricultural earner after the tomato, the avocado is growing in demand as it becomes a staple of diets north of the border. An increasing number of Mexican farmers are cultivating the crop.

El Pais reports that the U.S. now buys 80 percent of Mexico’s avocados, and sales have doubled since 2010.

“It is very important for us, particularly if you take into account that we have only been selling avocados to the United States for 20 years,” says Ramón Paz of the Association of Mexican Avocado Producers and Export Packers. He adds that Canada and Japan have become increasingly prominent customers as well.

Mexican growers are also confident that upcoming trade negotiations will focus more on manufacturing than agriculture.

Mexico’s domination of the avocado market is due largely its ideal growing conditions. The fruit, in fact, is native to Mexico. And it has a neighbor with a strong appetite for the product.

Although avocados grow in Yucatán — and packaged guacamole is sold in the U.S. under the “Yucatan” brand – Mexico’s country’s “Avocado Belt” is in Michoacán, and the State of Mexico and Jalisco have also begun growing the fruit.

But El Pais reports that success has attracted organized crime, along with deforestation to create more land for cultivation, as well as increased water use.

“The environmental impact is the most questionable,” says Alejandro Macías, an economics specialist at the University of Guadalajara. “Deforestation is dramatic, very serious. And in some areas it is leading to water shortages: we are exporting virtual water to other countries.”

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