Anonymous Appeal Blows Whistle on Michoacan’s Avocado Production
On Feb. 2, 2023, the USMCA-based Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) received a complaint from a Mexican citizen alleging that Michoacan’s avocado production generates an environmental impact that may be considered “ecocide.”
The complainant, whose name is not revealed, pointed out that the area devoted to avocado production in Michoacan, Mexico's top avocado-producing state, has shown accelerated growth at the expense of the state’s forest lands. “In just 17 years, productive land in the state went from 55,000ha to 150,000ha, which reflects a 172% growth,” the document reads. In Addition to deforestation, most farmers in the region overuse chemical fertilizers and pesticides that pollute water bodies such as rivers and streams. The chemicals also affect groundwater. Likewise, avocado plantations require huge amounts of water. To satisfy demand, producers illegally build water dams to irrigate their fields.
Through the petition, the anonymous citizen highlighted that authorities including Michoacan’s Ministry for Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), the Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER), the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) and the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA), among others, are aware of the situation and do little about it. “This goes against national laws and therefore also violates the rules of USMCA’s 24 chapter,” the document states.
The CEC, which is mandated to ensure the compliance of environmental rules within the trade agreement, will review the petition for 30 days to determine whether it should build a dossier. This dossier may lead to environmental recommendations from Canada and the US to Mexico. If after this period the secretariat determines that the petition meets the requirements, the analysis of the case will continue for another 60 days. From there, Mexico will have an additional 60 days to issue a response. Finally, the commission’s council will vote on the case. According to CEC, the complete process could take up to 14 months.
Since the signing of the USMCA in 2018, nine petitions have been submitted to the commission, of which three have already been closed and none have been turned into dossiers.
Mexican avocados are beloved by US consumers. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the US spent US$3 billion on avocados in 2021, of which US$2.8 billion were worth of avocado imports from Mexico. In this regard, on Jan. 17, 2023, Mexico’s Association of Avocado Producers and Exporters (APEAM), along with Alfredo Ramírez, Governor of Michoacan, kicked off the first Super Bowl avocado shipments. These avocados will be used to prepare guacamole, a snack consumed in large quantities during the transmission of Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12, 2023.