Mexico’s Avocado Boom Has Attracted the Attention of Violent Drug Cartels

The industry may be in trouble

avocados
Violence is threatening the avocado industry.
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By Kayla Kibbe / October 25, 2019 2:36 pm

America’s growing avocado habit has been good for Mexico, in some cases helping to raise parts of the country out of poverty. Unfortunately, the money from the avocado boom has made the industry a target for gangs and violent drug cartels, USA Today reported.

The growing violence within the thriving avocado industry has reportedly led some Mexican growers to take up arms. In the Michoacan state of San Juan Parangaricutiro, growers turned armed vigilantes take turns keeping guard against the thieves and drug cartel extortionists threatening the region’s $2.4 billion-a-year export industry.

“If it wasn’t for avocados, I would have to leave to find work, maybe go to the United States or somewhere else,” one of guards, a small farm owner named Pedro de la Guante, told USA Today.

Panic surrounding the crisis increased earlier this year after the United States threatened to withdraw orchard inspectors from the Mexican farms. In mid-August, a U.S. Department of Agriculture team of inspectors was reportedly threatened at gunpoint by a gang in Ziracuaretiro, a town just west of Uruapan in Michoacan.

“For future situations that result in a security breach, or demonstrate an imminent physical threat to the well-being of APHIS personnel, we will immediately suspend program activities,” the USDA wrote in a letter following the incident. If the department follows through with the threat, it could block shipments and upend the industry in Mexico, which currently supplies around 43 percent of world avocado exports.

This has everyone worried,” Ziracuaretiro mayor José Rodriguez Baca told USA Today.  “If they close the door on us in the United States, everything would come crashing down.”

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