From angst to avocados: How one Mexican state has embraced agriculture
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From angst to avocados: How one Mexican state has embraced agriculture

Once famed for extortion cases, kidnappings and drug cartel links, the Mexican state of Michoacán was firmly on the map for all the wrong reasons.

The birthplace for ex-president Felipe Calderón’s war against cartels and narco links from 2006 onwards, life is now somewhat quieter in a state once riddled with bloodshed and bullets.

Famed for its fertile soil, temperate climate, annual rainfall and four yearly harvests, Michoachán has now become the world’s avocado capital, with exports soaring by 240 percent during the past five years.

Cross border demand, and a love of the green fruit, has meant that in the U.S. alone, consumers now eat some 2.5 kilograms of avocados per capita, up from the meagre 0.5 kilograms consumed during the 1990s.

“I think it’s the fruit of the moment,” José Armando López Orduña, CEO of Mexico’s Producers and Packers Association for avocado export (Apeam) told BBC Mundo.

The fleshy fruit is now back on U.S. tables following years of ongoing import issues. In fact, Australia continues to prevent the import of Mexican avocados, limes and lemons, in a blockade which has lasted over ten-years, Mexico’s El Economista reports.

Avocado angst

Apeam producers, now totaling around 15,000 members in addition to the 41 packer companies, have increased their exports from around 6,000 tons during 1997-1998 to an incredible 800,000 avocados exported to the U.S. during the last year – a total monetary value of around $1,500 million.

Canada and Japan, other avocado-loving nations, imported 150,000 tons.

Yet avocados were once stopped in Mexico’s northern neighbor. As part of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) the U.S. once prohibited imports from Mexico, over fears of possible cross-contamination from pests.

Imports were halted fully between 1914 and 1917, while it was only in 2004 that Mexican avocados were allowed in 31 states from the months of October to April.

“Over time the presence of Latino migrants helped, accustomed to eating guacamole and to a certain extent American football has adopted the avocado and guacamole, as something which is shared at this event,” Orduña adds.

Yes Donald Trump might have clamped down against immigration from Mexico, but the media mogul is probably blissfully unaware that this salad staple is in fact from south of the border.

For Michoacán, the avocado is a symbol of peace times, with 57 percent employment in the state linked to avocado production, creating around 300,000 jobs.

With trade resumed, Mexico is set to retain its avocado crown – good news for guacamole lovers in the U.S. and beyond.

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