There is a good reason why avocados have been dubbed ‘green gold’. The fruit now constitutes a multibillion-dollar industry for Mexico, the world’s largest producer, with exports from the state of Michoacán alone reaching USD2.4 billion last year. But the exponential growth of the avocado’s popularity is a mixed blessing for Mexico’s communities and farmers. While most have benefited from record-breaking prices, many have attracted the attention of organised crime groups that are sinking their teeth into the profits.
From cultivation through to transportation, violence and corruption now pervade Mexico’s avocado supply chain – particularly in Michoacán, a long-standing hotbed for criminal violence. The similarities with conflict minerals are striking for companies that source avocados from the region. Association with killings, modern slavery, child labour and environmental degradation is becoming an increasing risk when dealing with Michoacán suppliers and growers, especially when establishing traceability is increasingly hard.
It remains to be seen if avocados will become a ‘conflict commodity’ in the eyes of consumers, but as we lay out below, the tell-tale signs are there.