With Mexico's prized cash crop increasingly targeted by criminal networks, local police have begun to provide protection for those delivering them to wholesalers and markets. Prices have risen more than 200% in the past two months.
URUAPAN — Avocados have become one of the world's most prized cash crops. The market is booming in particular for producers and distributors across certain regions of Mexico, its country of origin that still accounts for more than 30% of global production. But the agricultural source of pride and wealth for Mexicans has also begun to entice its ever hungry criminals looking to dip into the action.
Police this week in the western state of Michoacán were forced to provide armed escort for a caravan of 14 lorries taking avocados from Santa Ana Zirosto to La Quinta in the district of Uruapan, a drive of a little under an hour. This was to "assure their arrival without any hitches," the Heraldo de México daily reported, citing he Michoacán police authority.
It was not the first time producers had warranted police protection, the newspaper reported, as rising incidents of robbery and violence targeting supply of the fruit qualified in the region as "green gold."
Earlier this month, the country's ruling party MORENA declared in the Senate that price hikes in limes and avocados were in part for the extortions to which producers were subject, particularly in Guerrero and Michoacán, two adjacent states particularly prone to criminal activity. Senator Ricardo Velásquez told the legislative chamber that in cases criminals imposed produce prices and that typically, growers were forced to pay sums of between 500 and 2,000 pesos ($24 to $98) at all stages of production.
The country's statistics office, Inegi, found avocado prices to have risen 230% between December and January. Last June, some 3,000 avocado farmers armed themselves in Michoacán in response to rising incidents of extortion and criminal intimidation.