The main producer of avocados worldwide is Mexico, which harvested about 2.3 million tons (about 2087 kilograms) of avocados in 2019. To ensure a high number of consumers, avocados have been well promoted by the Hass Avocado Board (HAB), founded in 2002. HAB is the only avocado organisation built to maintain and expand demand for avocados in the United States. To understand the importance of Hass avocado in the avocado market, it is relevant to mention that 80% of all avocados consumed in the world are Hass avocados. In the United States, this number rises to 95%.
From 2000 to 2015, avocado consumption increased by 300% worldwide. Though avocados are a superfood that can positively affect your health while helping you make the necessary shift towards a plant-based diet, there is an overwhelming number of negative consequences attached to the century of the avocado boom. To be more specific, avocado farming is causing deforestation, destroying ecosystems, funding drug cartels, and contributing to climate change. The production of avocados is harming the environment and local communities, which needs to be addressed by HAB. Since avocados tend to be grown for export only, the production does have a negative social impact on local communities. The increasing global demand is causing prices to rise, which makes it difficult for local communities to afford a food product that is culturally associated with their region. HAB should be more transparent about the overall environmental impact as well as the often dangerous working conditions. I suggest that consumers consider buying organic avocados sourced locally in moderation.
Avocados can be divided into two parts, in which 20% refers to the seed and 80% to the edible part of the fruit. When it comes to 80% of the fruit, it consists of about 73% of water and about 7% of dietary fibre. Furthermore, avocados are a great source of vitamins C, A, E, K, and B-6, as well as riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, niacin, and betaine. They also provide lutein, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids together with minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc. As you can tell, it is an incredibly nutritious fleshy fruit that is made out of purely living cells. The nature of the fruit does not require any packaging. However, the Hass avocado has got an external plastic tag attached to the fruit. Furthermore, HAB sets a set of strict regulations on the quality of Hass avocado with an emphasis on its size and weight criteria. Unfortunately, the quality criteria based on appearance contributes to further waste production. All in all, the components of avocado can be considered quite sustainable if one disregards the Hass external packaging and the process of how avocados are selected and produced.
The production of Hass avocado requires tropical conditions with as much as 1000 litres of water to grow just 1kg of avocados, which amounts to roughly 3 avocados. To zoom in, one avocado tree can produce from 200 to 500 avocados per year. In comparison, 1 kg of broccoli only uses around 45 litres of water. Avocados are also grown as a monoculture, which means that the same crop grows in the same land year after year, for many years. Monoculture plantations leave deplete the soil and making crops more vulnerable to diseases, leading to the need to use many pesticides and fertilisers, both of which contaminate the soil and surrounding biodiversity. This mass-scale agricultural technique may be economically appealing for investors or producers, but in the long run, it can be very harmful to the environment – making the production of avocados very unsustainable.
Though the Hass avocado is commonly harvested in Mexico and California, it is often necessary for the avocado to travel long distances. In general, sea freight is by some regarded as a less costly, more reliable, and more environmentally friendly choice than air freight. However, considering that more than 90% of the world’s traded goods travel by sea, it obviously has an environmental impact as it also causes greenhouse gas emissions, as well as sound and oil pollution. Lastly, the transportation’s level of sustainability depends on the number of products and on the destination of products, but even the most sustainable scenario does not lead to a sustainable future.
It has been surprisingly difficult to find information about avocado farmers and their (un)sustainable conditions. The HAB official website does not provide any information regarding the workers. Instead, they offer general data about the number of avocados produced, transported, and sold.
According to a few websites and researches I have found, avocado farmers in Mexico reported being extremely unhappy with the wages they receive, leading them to hold workers strike and slowing down the supply of avocados into the U.S. Similarly to other agricultural jobs, the workdays are long and hard, income is insufficient, child labour is common, and the job itself is insecure.