In the United States the avocado has become one of the most popular ingredients in many dishes. There is a Bacon Avocado Fries recipe. A twist on the traditional favorite toast called Caprese Avocado Toast. For the more adventurous there is a recipe for Avocado Humus and Guacamole Deviled Eggs. There is even a recipe out there for Mac and Cheese with Guacamole as the most important ingredient. And it doesn’t just taste good. There have been many documented health benefits, which include such things as helping to better absorb antioxidants, contribute to a reduction in the possibility of cancer or heart disease, and your overall brain health and memory.
It should come as no surprise then that the avocado market was valued at $12 billion in 2016, and predicted to nearly double in value by 2025. Given the popularity of this pear-shaped, nutrient-dense fruit, there is intense competition for shares of this lucrative market. Nowhere is this competition more intense and potentially deadly than in Mexico, which produces roughly 45% of the world’s crop.
In early August of this year, nineteen people were murdered and later put on display in Michoacán by members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) as a result of the competition over this cash crop. You see, Michoacán is the source of the most avocados in Mexico, with a valuation of $1.5 billion. Though there is some degree of coordination between CJNG with several other cartels, as prices for the product go up and the available supply is constrained, competition to continue access to these profits leads to violence.
In Michoacán in particular, this has resulted in intense efforts by drug cartels to extort avocado producers in the area. The cartels themselves collect monthly protection money from the producers, calculated per hectare of the crop produced or the number of kilograms exported. Theft of avocados is also widespread, and more than four truckloads a day are stolen in Michoacán. Refusing to cave to cartel demands or being caught by members trying to steal avocados can result in death. In recent years the situation has spiraled as the price of Heroin has fallen to under a third of its 2017 value due to competition with synthetic opioids. Competition for control over avocados will likely only continue to get worse in the years ahead as the cartels continue to attempt to secure more income streams.