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Avocados have gained immense popularity over recent years, linked to a healthy lifestyle and fuelled by food trends, worldwide demand has grown at an average annual rate of 14% since 1990. But the story of how these much-loved fruits end up on your plate is often overlooked, we delve deeper into the truth and share how to source responsibly.
While the avocado boom has undoubtedly brought revenue to avocado producing nations like Mexico, the ramifications run deeper than simple supply and demand. It’s now more profitable for Mexican farmers to grow avocados than most other crops. So much so that in Michoacán, the state that produces most of the country’s avocados and arguably the world’s avocado capital, growers are ignoring the law and thinning out mature pine forest to plant young avocado trees instead.
But what’s so bad about swapping one type of tree for another? Permanent forest doesn’t need to be sprayed with fertilisers and pesticides. It takes care of itself and acts as a vast carbon sink. Avocado plantations, on the other hand, need repeated cycles of chemical inputs.
"Deforestation caused by avocado growing is increasing at a pace of 2.5% per year" - World Economic Forum
While Mexico is the world’s biggest avocado producer, it isn’t a major supplier to the UK. Instead, the UK gets most of its avocados from Peru, Chile, Spain, South Africa and Israel, which between them accounted for over 85% of imports over the past five years.
While links to drug cartels and deforestation are somewhat less relevant for the UK market, the issue of water is “ubiquitous”, according to Tim Hess, professor of water and food systems at Cranfield University. The water consumption associated with the UK’s avocado imports is estimated to stand at over 25 million cubic metres annually - which is equivalent to 10,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
"Avocados are one of the top three crops causing water related stress in production regions across the globe." - UNESCO
The environmental impacts from avocados come from the energy, water, fertiliser and pesticide required to grow them, the resources used for packaging materials and the energy used in processing, transporting and keeping them cool.
Tom Cumberlege, Associate Director of Carbon Trust says “some of the biggest markets for avocados are where they aren’t grown, as a result, they have to be imported from all around the world. As a general rule, the further away they are eaten from where they are grown, the bigger the environmental impact.”
At TYME we source our avocados from The Avocado Company UK, who work alongside growers to mitigate their environmental impact. The Avocado Company actively combat deforestation, worker exploitation and seek growers with social projects to improve welfare in needy communities. They also implement natural growing methods, never using damaging chemicals or excessive application.
“Let’s aim for super diets instead of super foods. Diets that are healthy for people, animals & the planet” - Tom Cumberlege
Watch with us:‘Rotten: The Avocado War’ on Netflix. This docuseries travels deep into the heart of the food supply chain to reveal unsavoury truths and expose hidden forces that shape what we eat.
Images: Erwan Frotin, Getty Images