The CEO of the World Avocado Organization (yes, there really is such an organization) has hit back at claims that avocados are unsustainable and grown by small producers at the mercy of Mexican cartels. (The Telegraph 14 June 2021)
Critics say that avocado farming is responsible for deforestation, the destruction of ecosystems and, of course, a contributor to climate change. A kilo of avocados requires some 2,000 liters of water to grow.
When I first came to Rehovot, more than fifty years ago, avocados were almost unknown in Europe. If you could find them, they were sold individually, with a price to match. But just a few minutes from my house was a large avocado orchard where we would walk our dog.
The orchard was carefully watched by an armed guard on horseback. After meeting him a few times, he accepted that we were just walking and would not dream of stealing his precious avocados. He told us that, just the year before, the entire crop had been lost to thieves, who turned up in a large truck a day or so before the harvest was to have begun. He was not going to have this happen again. We could, however, pick up fallen fruit and often went home with our pockets stuffed full of ripe avocados.
Today, avocados are not much more expensive than potatoes. The figures speak for themselves. In Britain 6,000 are sold every hour.
At the top of the tree is Mexico, producing more than two million tons every year. We in Israel only make it to number 10 with some 140,000 tons per year. Many acres of avocado have fallen victim to new, hi-tech, industries that bring in more foreign currency than did the humble avocado. There is also a problem finding workers to pick the fruit. No self-respecting Israeli is going to do this back-breaking job and it now falls to the many migrant workers, legal and illegal, that will do even the most unpleasant jobs without complaint.
What we do not have is a problem with water. Our once barren country is awash with fresh water from the desalination plants. The Soreq plant provides 150 million cubic meters each year, Hadera provides127 million, Ashkelon 118 million, Palmachim 90 million, and Ashdod 100 million. Enough for many avocado orchards. We may well be changing the climate but the change is for the better.
In the UK, avocado trees do not tolerate freezing temperatures. They can be grown as an indoor plant but it is simpler to visit your greengrocer and get an Israeli avocado. Perhaps, the much-reviled global warming will bring benefits for the UK’s avocado growers.
Alert readers will have noticed that this is my second blog about avocados (I Have the World by the ….. Avocados Oct 17, 2020). This is in accordance with their importance to both our economy and our lunch tables.
And in keeping with the times, we note that we do not discriminate. The term “avocado” is used here as a generic name and applies equally to the many different types of avocado. Readers may also rest assured that no avocados were hurt while writing this blog.