“Green Gold”: The lucrative business of organized crime in Mexico

How do drug traffickers begin to control the production and distribution of the avocado that leaves Mexico?

 "Green Gold": The lucrative business of organized crime in Mexico


Leer en español: “Oro verde”: El lucrativo negocio del crimen organizado en México

Mexico is the leading producer of avocado in the world and is positioned as the largest exporter of fruit globally. The benefits of this product have become popular in recent years, unleashing a wave of consumption motivated by trends in social networks and even Hollywood celebrities. However, what little is known is that the avocado has begun to take interest in the organized crime of the Aztec country.


According to data published by The New York Times, 9 out of 10 avocados imported to the US They come from Michoacán, a state dominated by violence and drug cartels. Due to the volcanic terrain conditions, Michoacán is the home of the main avocado plantations in Mexico. These two factors, added to the popularity of the fruit worldwide, threaten to unleash a war for its control and distribution.


2017, the year in which Mexico recorded its highest rate of violence, was also the term with a high peak of avocado exports to the US: 771 million kilograms were purchased by the American giant. This figure has caused the criminal groups to start charging “quotas” to the producers of the fruit.


According to The New York Times in its publication, members of the cartel known as Caballeros Templarios (which loosely translates to Knights Templar) extort and charge ‘taxes’ for the distribution of the fruit, in addition to usurping some farmland. Although the scourge has worsened in recent years, it is a practice that has been recorded for a decade. As reported in the text of the New York newspaper, for 2009 the violent cartel known as the Familia Michoacana decapitated five members of a rival criminal organization, with the aim of sending a message about their interest in “green gold” (as he starts calling the avocado) and the mercantile conditions of the sector.


77% of the exported avocado goes to the United States


Exporting Mexican avocado to US territory had been prohibited since 1914 due to the presence of insects in the product, which, while not threatening human health, did put other crops in risk in the country. However, in 1994, thanks to the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the fruit was once again received in American territory and since then it has predicted the success it now holds.


The Mexican avocado has conquered the palates around the world, including in China, where until 2016 it was the main supplier of the fruit, after which Chile will surpass it in exports to the Asian country. Although Mexico is almost without competition in the production of avocado, Chile and Peru advance in an accelerated way in the expansion of crops and retail distribution. For a time, California wrested the power of Mexican “green gold” with better prices but less exquisite flavor and Chinese entrepreneurs are working on the development of plantations to obtain an avocado similar to that exported by Latin America.


According to figures given by the Ministry of Agriculture of Mexico, USA. it consumes almost 77% of total avocado exports, followed by Japan, Canada, Spain, France, the Netherlands, El Salvador, China, Honduras, Guatemala, and 11 other countries.


This success becomes the goal of criminal organizations in the nation, especially in the core state of violence and drug trafficking in Michoacán. There are no official data on the amount of money that the cartels are obtaining for the commercialization of said fruit, nor the victims who leave the practices of extortion and intimidation, but the authorities confirm that the product has become a source of financing for the cartels, that have added to their drug portfolio an exotic product that does not end up satisfying the global population.


Latin American Post | Krishna Jaramillo

Translated from “‘Oro verde’: El lucrativo negocio del crimen organizado en México”

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