Mexican authorities revealed this week that pine forests
have been illegally felled to make way for an avocado plantation in a nature
reserve in the country’s Mexico state.
The plantation was shut down by the Mexican attorney
general’s office for environmental protection (PROFEPA). Officials found that,
as well as illegally felling 37 hectares of forest, farmers had installed roads
and irrigation systems in the reserve, which supplies much of Mexico City with
Earthsight has previously reported on the
increasing instances of illegal deforestation for avocado production in
neighbouring Michoacán state, which produces 80% of the country’s avocado crop.
The new case demonstrates that the problem is expanding to new areas.
Dramatic growth in avocado production is predicted in Mexico
state following the relaxation of
import controls in the US, which until mid-2016 permitted only fruit from
Michoacán to be traded. Mexico is the largest exporter of avocados to the
US, and also exports significant volumes to the EU. Mexico state is currently
the country’s third-largest
avocado producer after Michoacán and Jalisco, with plantations
hectares according to the USDA. This total is forecast to grow by
15.6% to 9,434 hectares by the end of the 2016/17 season, the biggest expansion
predicted anywhere in Mexico.
Plantation coverage in Michoacán is forecast to grow by
9.4%, to 147,720
hectares. PROFEPA estimate that 6,000
to 8,000 hectares of mostly pine and oak forest are cleared in
Michoacán each year to make way for avocado orchards, amid allegations of
widespread illegalities. They have already closed a series of
illegal plantations in
the state this year.
Avocado production in Mexico has expanded rapidly on the
back of growing global demand for the fruit. Avocado exports from Mexico
increased from £48 million in 2003 to £1.2 billion in 2015, while trade data
analysis shows that, between June 2015 and June 2016, Mexico exported a total
of 148,955 tonnes of avocados, up 54% from the same period the previous year.