AVOCADO PRODUCTION – IS THE AVOCADO SUPER FOOD OR GLOBAL THREAT?

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Todays’ world suffers from many illnesses which are for example high cholesterol or blood pressure. But many people have heart diseases which causes in many cases death. But there is solution how to prevent from these illnesses. When we visit a doctor, he just says to eat healthy, do more exercises, go for a walk, etc.

So if we want to solve the question or problem with the health we should start with eating. It is easy and possible – do not eat fried food, chocolate, “McDonald’s”,etc. In the world there are many healthy foods, which have many vitamins and minerals. This group of food includes mainly fresh fruit and vegetables. Also in the world we have many of them. There are criteria for being in the group of the healthiest food, which are for example rich natural endowment of nutrients, be readily available, affordable and best tasting. Those which meet criteria are for example asparagus, carrots, eggplants, corn, cucumber, potatoes, garlic, olives, onions, spinach, romaine lettuce, apples, apricots, blueberries, papayas, pineapples, oranges, lemons, strawberries, raspberries, watermelons, etc. We mentioned just some of them but in today’s world there is one of these which gain the price of the “The World’s healthiest food” and which is very popular – a v o c a d o.

In avocado we will find all B vitamins except vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, copper, omega-3s. Numerous studies have looked at the relationship between avocado consumption and blood fat levels. The research has been said that the risk of metabolic syndrome which includes symptoms involving problematic blood fat levels and elevated blood pressure, has been reduced by intake of avocado. Many of the nutrients provided by avocado are likely to play a role in this important health benefit. Research in this area encourages us to think about avocado as being truly preventive in its cardiovascular health benefits, and worthy of consideration in many types of meal plans. Also avocado is likely to provide us with health benefits in the areas of blood sugar control, insulin regulation, satiety and weight management, and decreased overall risk of unwanted inflammation.

In this place, there is one question in my mind – “Is the avocado really a super food which prevent us from illnesses?” Avocado is a tree that is native to Mexico. About 40 percent of the world’s avocados are grown in Mexico, and most of those come from the area around Jujucato and Lake Zirahuen. Avocado mainly grows in Michoacán in Mexico. According to state government figures, avocado occupy some 137 000 ha (340 000 acres) of land in Michoacán. Great interest in this tropical green fruit can cause that the farmers can no longer meet demand. For example, in the US, the amount of harvested avocados per capita increased from 0,5 kg in 1999 to around 2 kg in 2011. In US avocado grown mainly in southern California, but the recent drought, rising prices pesticide and cheap imports from abroad makes some farmers end with cultivation of this crop. In the case of Mexico the situation is different. Mexico is the world largest exporter and producer of avocados. To produce more avocados, Mexican stub forests. Mexico is one of the top 10 countries with highest deforestation. According to the World bank data in 1990 the forest covered 35,9 % of total area of land (697 600 km²) and in 2015 it was just 34 percent (660 400 km²). The portal Independent informs that each year decline 2,5 percent of forest in Mexico. In my opinion it is a big lost of the “lungs of Earth” just for high profit from the producing of avocados and many other agricultural products. When we compare the agricultural and forest area in Mexico, we could see that the agricultural area has increased from 105 154 000 ha in 1990 to 106 705 000 ha in 2012, according to FAOSTAT. With the increasing of agricultural area the gross production of avocados has also increased. Avocado in Mexico is grown at an area of about 137 000 ha. What interests me the most is the fact that there are even avocados grown in 2 600 meters above sea level, even though they are not that productive. Much of this land has been occupied illegally because the business with avocados is so lucrative with annual turnover of 1 billion USD. That is one of the reasons why the organized criminal groups and drugs cartels release into this business.

Other problem with the producing of the avocado is addition of chemicals and pesticides. Those are used during the growing of avocados. It is because of one very logical reason – avocados travels from one to the other end of the world and at the end of this journey they still has to be fresh. Experts warn that the chemicals used in mountain orchards may be spilling down into ground water, streams, rivers and lakes, and subsequently causing illnesses among the population. Most often they are poisoned by pesticides, manifested by sneezing, allergy symptoms and digestive problems. Alberto Gomez Tagle, an expert on the environment in the Lake Zirahuen region, which includes Jujucato, said many communities that rely on the lake water may already be suffering from the effects of chemical runoff. Also one lakeside village asked researchers for help when residents began to suffer from liver and kidney problems that did not exist until the avocado orchards expanded and all types of pesticides were used. What seems a little bit positive in this case is that some officials and some producers in Mexico are striving to halt the growth of orchards in forests. 

Around the world and also in Europe we face to increasing demand for the avocado even if the price is high. This increased demand we could also see on the increasing export of avocado from Mexico to European Union. According to the European Commission Trade Market Access Database export of avocado from Mexico to European Union represent in 2015 in total 28 632 000 kg (60 848 337 EUR) while in 2014 it was just 12 684 00gettyimages-6209422220 kg (24 796 269 EUR). This increment is very big because it is doubled in these 2 years. But it is not problem of last 2 years but it is long term trend, except the years of global crisis when the trade decreased.  According to previous information also the price in these 2 years increased from 1,95 EUR/1 kg to 2,13 EUR/1 kg. And here we come to another problem which is the big imbalance between the salary of farmer and selling price of the avocado. For example the farmer gets for a kilo of avocado 2 EUR and the stores sold one piece of avocado for 3 EUR (1 piece is unequal 1 kg). That is the reason why  Mexican avocado packers in November 2016 went on strike for a few days to protest the low pay they were getting this season, which ranges between 1,80 USD and 2,60 USD per kilo, informed by Independent. This brief strike resulted in a global avocado price hike.

The second largest producer of avocados is Chile. Chile has also some problems with producing because it is facing the problem of dry weather and high water consumption in its cultivation. Farmers began to plant avocado trees on slopes, which has resulted in the drying up of some rivers. Local environmentalists warn that such volume of production is not sustainable over time and can also cause water shortages for the population. So I think farmers in Chile should listen to experts and try to reduce the production of avocados and maybe substitute production of avocados with another which will not harm the environment and do not cause a big losses for farmers.

 And here we come to the conclusion and suggestion of the mentioned problems. We think that we buy fresh and healthy avocados. But it is not true in many cases. So what should we do? There are problems with environment, labour market and health. These are for me the biggest problems.  I am not sure if we should stop the deforestation in Mexico for example when we stop buying the avocados from there because Mexico is not the only one exporter. Maybe a good solution will be in creating a label for avocados sold in stores so that consumers can identify those from orchards that do not harm the environment. But it is a little bit funny because no one of producers will admit that they used pesticides and chemicals which not harms… Otherwise stop buying avocados with label “Product of Mexico”- also for me not solution. And if we stop buying avocados from Mexico, it will be not a big loss for them. Why? Because the biggest consumer of avocados and the biggest “avocado business partner” in 2013 is USA with 704 000 tons, according to Global Trade Atlas. So when USA (USA is top 15 producers of avocados but with the small concern) will produce more avocados and less import them from Mexico, it will have the biggest impact on the avocado production in Mexico than stop buying avocados from Mexico in European Union. Otherwise I think there are some small producers which do not use chemicals and pesticides but those avocados may stay in Mexico. Another solution is that many experts therefore advise to reduce consumption of avocados. Because healthy fats are found in other food which is for example nuts, almonds, seeds, vegetable oils, etc. Regarding to the protection of environment and related deforestation, maybe a good solution is growing avocados people themselves. In our climatic conditions it may be a little bit difficult to grow it. However, the internet is full of instructions of how to grow your own avocado at home. It is enough to open the google and write down: “avocado growing”. However, it is not sure if it will grow.

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To conclude and answer the question from the title – IS THE AVOCADO SUPER FOOD OR GLOBAL THREAT? – we should think a lot about the answer and for many people it is not clear. In my opinion, of course avocado is very healthy food but also bring many problems which I have mentioned before. It is on each of us to answer to this question and make our own opinion at this problem.

Michaela Mészárosová

Sources:

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