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Mexican avocados grown on illegal orchards should not be exported to U.S., ambassador says

Published 02/26/2024, 06:13 PM
Updated 02/26/2024, 06:51 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar speaks at an event marking more than 200 years of diplomatic relations between the United States and Mexico, in Mexico City, Mexico, December 6, 2023. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril/File Photo

By Cassandra Garrison

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Mexican avocados grown on illegal orchards should not be exported to the United States, the largest importer of the popular staple used in guacamole, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico said Monday.

In a visit to Michoacan, Mexico's main avocado-producing state, U.S. Ambassador Ken Salazar said there should be consequences if avocados were determined to be grown on illegal orchards.

"They shouldn't have the opportunity to sell those avocados to the United States market," Salazar said in a joint news conference with Michoacan Governor Alfredo Ramirez, seen in a Facebook (NASDAQ:META) video shared by Ramirez.

At least 30,000 hectares (74,130 acres) had been deforested in the state between 2018 and 2023, Ramirez said, with 817 illegal avocado orchards identified by the local government's Forest Guardian initiative.

"Surely very soon the export protocol for avocados (from Mexico to the United States) will include a clause, an environmental guide that will have a direct reference to the Forest Guardian, from packaging based on the traceability of the product, to the orchard ... until it arrives for sale in the United States," Ramirez said.

Mexico, the world's largest avocado exporter, sends 2.5 million metric tons abroad, according to data from its agriculture ministry.

Four out of five avocados eaten in the United States are imported from Mexico, according to Climate Rights International (CRI), a nonprofit group that published research last year showing how avocados grown on deforested lands make their way to U.S. distributors and supermarkets.

Michoacan state is the only place on earth where avocado trees bloom four times a year, instead of just once. The state's rich volcanic soil, healthy precipitation and ideal elevation for growing, make it a perfect location for avocado farming.

The popularity of avocados and their lucrative market price has, however, led to unchecked illegal deforestation and water extraction in Michoacan, according to the CRI.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar speaks at an event marking more than 200 years of diplomatic relations between the United States and Mexico, in Mexico City, Mexico, December 6, 2023. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril/File Photo

Daniel Wilkinson, a senior adviser at CRI, called Salazar's announcement in Michoacan "remarkable."

"If this commitment now translates into effective regulation, it could be a real game changer for local forests and communities," said Wilkinson.

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