Country that produces almost half the worlds avocados contemplates the unthinkable as dietary staple becomes too costly for ordinary Mexicans

The growing global appetite for avocados has been blamed for a litany of sorrows, from self-inflicted stab wounds to stopping young people from buying their own homes.

But in Mexico, the worlds biggest producer, what used to be a dietary staple is now too expensive for many ordinary consumers. And, now the country where the avocado is believe to have originated is considering the unthinkable: importing avocados from abroad.

It seems laughable, being able to bring in avocados from other areas at a time when we are so successful in exporting [avocados] but were not ruling it out, said economy secretary Ildefonso Guajardo.

Its practically the price of success. Avocados are so popular on the international level that its generating price pressure in the national market.

Avocados are believed to have first been cultivated in the Mexican state of Puebla, and they have become big business for the country, which accounts for almost half the worlds production.

Government statistics show avocado exports now bring more money into the country than petroleum.

Many towns have grown wealthy on the so-called green gold which has also been blamed for a spate of illegal deforestation in the country.

One town Tanctaro in Michoacn state ships out more than a million dollars worth of avocado every day, and growers there even organized an armed vigilante group to fight off extortion and threats from criminal cartels.

But the success of the industry has driven up prices to unprecedented levels in recent months: avocados regularly sell for more than 80 pesos (3.40) per kilo in many markets the same value as Mexicos daily minimum wage.

Producers say the price spike has been driven in part by a 20% shrinkage in the crop, but others point to the growing international demand, and warn that high prices are here to stay.

Workers lower crates of avocado for a customer at a market in Mexico City. Avocados regularly sell for more than 80 pesos per kilo Mexicos daily minimum wage. Photograph: Nick Wagner/AP

Its a temporary [seasonal] imbalance in the market, said Ramn Paz, president of the Association of Producers and Distributors of Avocados of Mexico. Theres an increasingly strong demand everywhere in the world. This is the main reason for the price hike and why imports wont solve the situation in Mexico, he added.

Much of that demand is coming from the United States, where avocado consumption is climbing at a clip of 15% per year. Ironically, Mexican avocados were kept out of the US market until 1997 over fears of pest invasions.

Prices have hit such heights that one Australian property mogul groused that millennials couldnt afford houses because they were spending too much on avocado toast.

His calculations probably did not support his argument, but the growing taste for avocados has eaten into consumption in Mexico.

The country remains the biggest per capita consumer in the world, and avocados play a central part in many traditional recipes such as guacamole, tostadas and ceviche.

But individual consumption has slipped from roughly 9kg a year to 7.5kg, and many ordinary Mexicans say that avocados are simply too expensive for them.

At the Mexico City taco stand where she works, Marisela Cuevas said she only brings out her avocado sauces on request. Its a luxury, she said.

  • This article was amended on 6 August 2017. It originally overstated the value of Mexican avocado exports.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/aug/06/mexico-considers-importing-avocados-as-global-demand-drives-up-prices