Avocados are wreaking havoc in Mexico
Mexico produces a half of all avocados in the world. A majority of them are grown in the Michoacán state, whose organized crime organisations earned over $765 Million from 2009 to 2013. A majority of this is collected as protection money from avocado producers.
According to Mexican Reforma magazine some new crime cartels gathered their initial funding with this method. Most of the avocados are sold to the United States. This has lead to the decline of the use of avocado in local kitchens, even though it is a traditional part of the local cuisine. Avocados have simply become too expensive for the locals to purchase.
Cartels have been into the so-called "blood avocados" since the 1990s, when Mexico was just starting exports to the United States. The US banned avocado imports in 1914, but it was allowed again with the North American free trade agreement NAFTA. According to the Mexican justice ministry, the cartels acquired details of all the avocado producers in the country.
The cartels then used the acquired statistics and focused their extortion operations to the richest farmers. The situation intensified starting from 2006 when president Felipe Calderón began his war against the drug cartels, and the first signs of the booming demand for avocados in the United States became evident. Calderóns operation started in the state of Michoacán, where it only manage to split the large cartels into smaller units.
The factions starting battling each other, and this "civil war" continues until this day. Because of more competition, the cartels tightened their grip on the avocado farmers. People were killed and abducted, and the state slid to total anarchy. Eventually the avocado farmers in the "avocado capital of the world", the city of Tancítaro, the local organised into vigilante units to protect themselves and their livelihood.
This calmed the situation in the city, but farmers outside of Tancítaro are still at the mercy of the avocado units. At places there are dangerous areas in highways where looters loom. In addition to crime the avocado boom has other side effects. Illegal logging is done to expand avocado plantations, leading to drought as avocados use a lot more water than the forest. Increased use of pesticides cause health issues to avocado pickers, and pollute the ground water.
Growth of the avocado industry in Mexico continues and there is no end in sight. Any of the issues in the southern neighbour have not stirred any worries in the avocado loving United States.