‘Furtive’ avocado production destroying natural forests in Mexico


Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Michoacán Photo: Luis Avalos

The Mexican state of Michoacán is losing up to 1,000 hectares of forest each year due to illegal expansion of avocado farms.

The crisis has prompted the government to implement an emergency strategy to curb deforestation, which includes the establishment of a dedicated police unit to crack-down on illegal avocado farmers.

The expansion of crops is encroaching on pine and oak forests in the western state, in which forests cannot legally be converted to agricultural uses.

According to officials cited by the BBC, growers are illegally starting fires, then using the denuded land for avocado cultivation. Another “furtive” method employed, according to officials, is planting avocado trees in forests, then removing native species when they reach maturity.

The BBC cites statistics from the National Institute of Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock, which suggest that between 600 to 1,000 hectares of forest are cleared each year to grow avocados in the State.

The Secretary of Urban Planning and Environment estimates that there are 20,000 hectares of illegal avocado crops. A further 120,000 hectares of crops are officially registered.

Approximately 85 per cent of Mexico’s avocados are exported to the US. Michoacán is the leading state for avocado production in Mexico, accounting for 85 per cent of total avocado production in the country in 2014, according to the USDA.

Between 2004 and 2014, the state lost a total of 9,600 ha of pine and oak forest, according to government figures. Most of the deforestation took place to give way to avocado orchards.

The volcanic forests in Michoacán are home to the Monarch butterfly, on IUCN’s red list of threatened species. The use of pesticides and chemicals in agriculture is said to be a major cause of its decline. 

Authorities in Mexico have reportedly already detected small avocado orchards in areas inhabited by monarch butterflies in the state, where farmers had felled pine forest. Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Profepa) inspectors recently shut down three farms for illegal land use change for avocado production in the municipality of Tancítaro. 179 trees over an area of 28.3 hectares had been felled to grow 8928 avocado plants.

 Source: BBC

This post was updated on 14 October 2016.

More from Blog

Sanctions breached / Evidence of laundered Russian plywood found by EU investigation

Continue reading
Russian Sanctions / US sanctions should cover blood timber

Continue reading
Paraguayan leather / Are Italian tannery’s pledges on deforestation enough?

Continue reading
EU Deforestation Regulation / Success of landmark deforestation law far from assured 

Continue reading
EU Law / MEPs must strengthen planned corporate sustainability due diligence law

Continue reading
G7 Sanctions / Cash from "conflict timber" still flowing into Russia and Belarus

Continue reading
Interview / Earthsight spoke to Andrei Sannikov about the urgent need for strong sanctions on Russian and Belarusian timber

Continue reading
Indigenous rights / “We are in mourning, but we carry on with our struggle”

Continue reading
EU Policy / EU agrees on much needed landmark law, but work still needed to fully protect forests and communities

Continue reading
FSC / Crucial reforms blocked by industry actors

Continue reading

Stay up to date with all Earthsight news & updates

Receive email updates for the latest news and insights from Earthsight and be among the first to read our new investigations.

We keep your data secure and don’t share anything with third parties. Read full terms.