B2 High-Intermediate US 377 Folder Collection
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Avocado has become one of the world's trendiest foods.
As the poster child of millennial healthy eating,
this superfood is now a mainstay for foodies everywhere.
But have you noticed your avo on toast
is costing more and more?
Avocado prices have rocketed in recent years by up to 129%,
with the average national price of a single Hass avocado
reaching $2.10 in 2019, almost doubling in just one year.
So, why are avocados so expensive?
Archaeologists in Peru have found domesticated avocado seeds
buried with Incan mummies dating back to 750 BC.
But it was the Aztecs in 500 BC who named it āhuacatl,
which translates to "testicle."
When Spanish conquistadors swept through Mexico
and Central America in the 16th century,
they renamed it aguacate.
The farming of aguacate developed
over the next few hundred years,
predominantly in Central America and South America.
But consumption of the "alligator pear"
outside of these regions before the late 19th century
was almost nonexistent.
The commercialization of aguacate began in the early 1900s
but was focused on branding avocados as a delicacy
for the wealthy, like this advert in The New Yorker
from 1920, which declared them as
"The aristocrat of salad fruit."
But a selection of Californian growers realized
that the hard-to-pronounce aguacate was off-putting
for the mass market, so they formed
the California Avocado Association.
By the 1950s, production scale grew,
and avocado prices fell to about 25 cents each.
Popularity increased further with the wave
of inter-American immigration in the '60s,
as Latin Americans brought their love of avocados
with them to the US.
But as demand increased, supply had to keep up,
and the true difficulties of yielding large-scale
avocado crops began to show.
Avocado orchards require an extraordinary amount
of costly resources in order to flourish.
Gus Gunderson: There are multiple inputs
that avocados require,
whether it's water, fertilizer, pruning, pest control,
the sunburn protection of trees.
All those go into making your chances better
of having a very good-quality crop.
When we decide to plant an avocado orchard,
we'll plant trees that come from certified nurseries.
We have to place our orders years in advance.
On average, if we're producing 100,000 pounds per acre,
that takes about a million gallons of water,
so 100 gallons per pound,
so it'd be about 50 gallons per 8-ounce fruit.
But that's dependent on what mother nature
will throw at you, you know, we have wind,
we have intense sun.
It's really hard for a grower to manage
the unmanageable things that will affect a crop.
Narrator: The surge in popularity of avocados
stalled during the fat-fighting frenzy of the 1980s,
with an average of only 1 pound per capita
being consumed in America by 1989.
The decade's low-fat obsession drove consumers
away from avocado because of its high fat content,
without really understanding
the nutritional truth hidden within.
Hazel Wallace: When it comes to fat in food in general,
people tend to get a little bit concerned
because we often hear in the media
that fat isn't good for us.
But the type of fat that's in avocados
is monounsaturated fat, which is actually often deemed
healthy fat or heart-healthy fat,
so while there is a lot of fat in avocados,
it's actually quite good fat.
Narrator: Avocado started its meteoric comeback
at the turn of the millennium, and it was helped
by an unlikely political decision.
In 2005, the US Department of Agriculture
lifted a 90-year-old ban to allow the importation
of Mexican avocados to all 50 states.
Initially, this decision angered Californian growers,
who feared the move could slash local growers' sales
by as much as 20%.
Harold Edwards: What actually had transpired and took place
was, as that Mexican supply became much more
prevalent and available, retailers got behind
marketing and selling avocados,
food service providers, restaurants started putting it
as permanent parts of their menus,
and demand started to boom
because the inconsistent supply chains before
were now consistent, and consumers were allowed
to enjoy avocados every day of the year.
Narrator: The biggest day of the avocado calendar
became Super Bowl Sunday, when it's now estimated
that almost 200 million pounds of avocados
are eaten during the big game in America.
But if you take a moment to consider
the resources needed to produce that amount,
you can start to understand avocados' elevated prices.
According to experts, it takes roughly 270 liters of water
to grow a pound of avocados.
So 200 million pounds could require
as much as 54 billion liters of water,
which means droughts or heat waves can have
devastating consequences on the avocado industry.
In fact, that's exactly what's been happening in California
for the last seven years, with the Sunshine State
only recently being declared drought-free in 2019,
which goes a long way to explaining record avocado prices.
In some countries, like Chile, avocado cultivation
is being blamed for exacerbating droughts,
as lush green orchards overlook dry riverbeds.
Perhaps the biggest reason for avocados' rise to dominance
is the emergence of the clean-eating lifestyle.
No longer just a chip dip for special occasions,
this superfood can be found in a plethora of recipes
in cafés and restaurants everywhere around the world.
And those who are eating them are really keen
for you to know about it.
Just type #avocado into Instagram, and you'll be hit
with over 10 million search results.
But is the glorification of avocado justified?
Wallace: There's quite a big hype around avocados,
but it actually is quite justified when it comes
to how nutrient-dense this food is.
There's not many foods that actually replicate it
in terms of a nutritional profile.
When it comes to calling something a superfood,
I'm not really for that label.
Avocados are definitely a good food
to include in your diet, but like I said,
you're not really missing out if you don't like them
or if you can't eat them for any reason.
Monounsaturated fats, we can find that in things
like olive oil and olive, nuts, and seeds.
The vitamins and minerals, we can find that
in other green vegetables, so spinach and broccoli
and things like that.
So there's ways of getting those nutrients in
without having avocado.
Narrator: All of this produce requires
an astonishing amount of labor.
Even once grown, pruned, and picked,
avocados need costly distribution methods
in order to be delivered fresh and ripe
to far-flung corners of the world.
Gunderson: If you're living in Philadelphia, right?
You wanna buy a ripe avocado in Philadelphia?
What they do is they ship green avocados
from California to Philadelphia,
they send them to the ripening center,
they warm them up and get ethylene in them,
so they all ripen, and then,
when they're moved out to the retail stores,
you're actually buying something
that's almost ready to eat or ready to eat.
'Cause if you were to buy a green avocado that's shipped
straight from California to your market,
you would have to ripen it yourself
over a seven- to 10-day period,
and most consumers are a little more anxious
for their avocado toast than waiting 10 days. [laughs]
Narrator: With prices so high, the commodity of avocados
has attracted a spate of thefts from orchards
and delivery trucks worldwide.
In New Zealand, armed night patrols and electric fences
have been introduced after a grower in Northland
had 70% of his orchard stolen.
There's even further grim reading for avocado lovers.
In Michoacán, where 80% of Mexico's avocados originate,
cartels run a so-called "blood avocado" trade,
violently enforcing a nonnegotiable extortion fee
from farmers based on the size of their land
and the weight of their crop.
Some restaurants have begun an avocado boycott,
as we all weigh the ethics behind our eating habits.
Experts suggest that water shortages
could affect 5 billion people by 2050,
and rainfall in the so-called drought belt,
which includes Mexico and South America,
is predicted to decline.
But whilst evidence of environmental degradation
is mounting, the avocado industry is still growing
along with consumer demand.
In certain places, the sustainability of avocado production
will become untenable.
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Why Avocados Are So Expensive | So Expensive

377 Folder Collection
Fiona Chen published on November 26, 2019
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