While Mexican avocado imports are at a halt right now, some are calling for a boycott.
The U.S. temporarily suspended the import of avocados from Mexico recently after a U.S. official received a threatening phone call.
The U.S. plant safety inspector was working in the Mexican state of Michoacán when he received the call on his official cell phone, Mexico’s Agriculture Department said.
Now some activists want the U.S. to take advantage of this time and make changes so the country can move to selling more sustainable avocados.
“They (avocados) are a very large portion of either their country or regional economy and, you know, banning them entirely would not be advantageous” for already struggling local farmers, said Gareth Elliott, a New Jersey restaurant manager who runs the Facebook page “Blood Avocados.”
“But if there were more environmental studies and they were grown in a responsible manner, we could solve this together.”
Advocates say this would also stop producers from cutting down pine forests to clear land for avocado orchards.
Many growers in Mexico report having to pay thousands of dollars in protection payments to drug gangs for each acre of orchard.
But avocado producers’ associations have not come up with a serious certification program to assure consumers the avocado they buy has not involved protection money to drug cartels.
Nor have they come up with a plan to certify that the avocado sold at a U.S. supermarket wasn’t planted on illegally logged mountainsides that used to hold pine forests, threatening local water supplies.
There is also a concern that avocado producers could eventually start planting in monarch butterfly reserves in Michoacán.
A long ban on avocado exports may benefit the Mexican families who can no longer afford the fruit because of international demand.
But the loss of income would be devastating for Mexican farmers, who have spent almost five centuries looking for a miracle crop that would pull them out of poverty.