Mexico's Avocado Boom Drives a Forest Bust

Farmers are rapidly expanding orchards, clearing trees at much faster clip than thought
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 1, 2016 1:40 PM CDT
Mexico's Avocado Boom Drives a Forest Bust
In this 2014 file photo, avocado boxes are collected in an avocado orchard in Michoacan, Mexico. Authorities in Mexico said on Monday, Oct. 31, 2016, that deforestation caused by the expansion of avocado orchards is much higher than previously thought.   (Eduardo Verdugo)

Your guacamole is taking a toll south of the border in the form of higher-than-thought deforestation as Mexican avocado orchards expand rapidly, reports the AP. Talia Coria, an official in the attorney general's office for environmental protection, said almost 50,000 acres of forest are converted to agricultural use each year in the western state of Michoacan, the world's top producer of avocados; between 30% and 40%, or 15,000 to 20,000 acres, of that loss is due to avocados. Experts say a mature avocado orchard uses almost twice as much water as fairly dense forest, meaning less water reaches Michoacan's legendary crystalline mountain streams on which trees and animals in the forests depend.

Species like the monarch butterfly also rely on Michoacan forest as habitat, though Coria said the monarch wintering grounds don't appear to have been damaged yet. Guillermo Haro, the AG for environmental protection, said Michoacan grows about eight out of 10 avocados exported worldwide, but added that the state's forests "are a wealth greater than any export of avocados." The impoverished state depends on avocados for jobs and income as an alternative to the rampant production of synthetic drugs that also exists. Agriculture officials had previously estimated the loss of forest land to avocado planting at 1,700 acres a year from 2000 through 2010. However, the rising popularity of the fruit and higher prices have apparently driven faster expansion. (More avocado stories.)

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