Titled The Avocado War, this episode chronicles the cultural, political and environmental dynamics surrounding avocado agriculture. Native to Mexico, the fruit now contributes more than $2.5 billion to that country’s economy.
It’s a sum large enough to have earned avocados the nickname “Green Gold.” With so much money involved, the industry has become a magnet for kidnappings, extortion and murder.
Financial gain isn’t the only war being fought over avocados, there is also a fight over water access and usage. The water problem stems from avocado trees’ being so temperamental about growing conditions. They damage after just four hours of temperatures in the 30s. So they’re grown on hillsides above where the cold air settles.
In many areas, getting water to these hillside plantings is technologically challenging and more costly than many small farmers can afford.
As the narrator informs us, “It takes at least 18 gallons of water to produce a single avocado.”
(I agree that’s certainly a lot, but it’s still only 1 percent of what’s needed to produce a pound of beef or gallon of milk!)
The Avocado Wars profiles avocado growers in Mexico, California and Chile. All share grave concerns about water shortages, backed by scenes of parched soil and withered trees.
One particularly sobering segment focused on a Chilean town where all the water sources — rivers, lakes and even wells — have run dry. For one farmer, this has meant the loss of the land that’s supported him his entire life.
Concerning the industry’s unsustainable growth, University of Chile PhD Pilar Barria observes, “You cannot forget about the ecosystem. Without it, we are lost.”
What I found most hopeful about the film was its recommendation that the industry institute ethical growing standards similar to those developed for fair trade coffee.
It was enough to inspire me make my own commitment. I will immediately conduct a thorough review of where Fruitive’s avocados are grown — and do whatever I can to purchase them from ethically grown, sustainable farms!