US avocado shortage takes a deadly turn

The ongoing shortage of avocados is driving up prices to such an extent that it has captured the attention of organised crime.

While restaurants around the world are coming up with recipes for ‘mockamole’ made from other green vegetables, avocado farmers in Mexico are facing widespread theft and intimidation as crime syndicates cash in on the scarcity.

Just this week, nine bodies were discovered in Uruapan, Michoacán – one of Mexico’s largest avocado producing areas – in what seemed to be executions in a turf war between gangs trying to control the lucrative trade, according to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

The news agency reported in June that around 48 tons of avocados are stolen every day by gangs in Michoacán. It says roughly 80 per cent of the US imports of avocados comes from the state.

Wholesale prices of avocados are more than double what they were just a year ago, according to Rabobank data, and a lot of that additional cost is being passed on to consumers with retail prices almost doubling.

Accelerating demand is one reason for the shortage – consumption has risen fourfold in the US since 2000 according to The Economist – along with seasonal dips in output in key producers including Mexico and California.

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