Avocado-related crime and violence soars, as Mexican drug cartels turn from opium paste to "green gold"

Avocado-related crime and violence soars, as Mexican drug cartels turn from opium paste to "green gold"

The green gold rush is turning violent

VicesFebruary 07, 2020 By Will Brendza

People get fanatic about their avocados.

I’m not sure when it happened, exactly, but sometime in the last decade avocado’s exploded into popularity, becoming one of the world’s favorite and most treasured fruits. It goes on everything: turkey clubs, burgers, salads, burritos, BLT’s, eggs, benedicts, chips, and they’re even great all on their own. They’re healthy for you, they’re tasty, and people will pay top dollar to get their hands on them.

And they often have to. The price of avocados has been steadily rising over the last few years, as it’s found its way into more and more of people’s favorite foods. According to the department of agriculture, the national average price of a Hass avocado in 2019 was $2.10 compared to $1.17 only a year prior.

These things are a cash crop. And even the Mexican drug cartels are starting to realize how much capital potential there is in the Avocado farming industry.

Which is why, recently, there has been a sharp uptick in avocado-related violence in Mexico’s western state of Michoacán. Over a dozen trucks a day leave this ripe avocado belt, packed full of that green gold, headed for the US. Now, as the multi-billion-dollar industry continues to grow, gang members have started robbing these trucks at gunpoint along the highways.

The situation has gotten so tense, that it’s created avocado no-go zones for local police areas that have become too dangerous because of the fruit, for police to dare to venture.

Juan, a local avocado farmer from Michoacán, has been the target for many of these highway robberies, and he’s starting to feel the crunch. He’s reached out to police for help, but they refuse to challenge the cartels in some of these areas, fearing for their lives.

“Where there’s money, that’s where the bad guys go,” says Juan, an avocado farmer who’s family usually does very well selling Avocados to smallholders in the US. “With all the publicity that it’s going so well for us — this will be the sixth year that Mexican avocados have [been] advertised in the Super Bowl — it draws attention to us.”

Like other prescious non-drug resources, like tin, tungsten, gold and tantalum, the value of avocados is making it, what is called a “conflict commodity.” Something that generates violence simply because of its value.

And that’s partly America’s fault. Not just because our taste for avocados has grown so much, but also because of America’s increased use of fentanyl. That has caused the price of heroin to plummet, and with it the price of Mexican opium paste has plummeted too. That’s put pressure on the cartel that they are not used to feeling. So, they’ve had to find new ways to buffer those profit margins.

Robbing avocado trucks bound for export is a very easy way to accomplish that. The opportunity is ripe for the picking and the cartels, not bound by any moral or ethical standards, haven’t hesitated to snatch it up.

Which is to say, America’s fentanyl problem is largely responsible for the trials and tribulations that farmers like Juan are experiencing.

And it’s a pattern that is threatening the flow of avocados from Mexico into the US. Should America’s supply of avocados get seriously squeezed like that, the price per unit of that green gold is going to soar even higher… to $4 an avocado? To $6?

There’s no knowing how high that price might climb, should this Mexican cartel avocado interference continue. And there’s no knowing what kind of mayhem that might cause.

Like I said, people get fanatic about their avocados. Take those away or outprice the common people, and we could have a “green revolution” on our hands.