The Growing Crisis: Climate Change and the Global Avocado Supply

The Growing Crisis: Climate Change and the Global Avocado Supply

The Rise and Vulnerability of Avocados

Once a niche food item, avocados soared to global popularity in the 2010s, becoming synonymous with millennial culture and upscale brunch menus. However, as demand for this nutrient-rich superfood has increased, its supply chain faces severe threats from climate change. A recent report by Christian Aid highlights the "terrible impact" of environmental changes on avocado production, particularly in key growing countries such as Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Burundi.

Environmental Challenges in Major Producing Regions

Avocados require significant water resources to grow — about 320 litres per fruit. This makes them particularly susceptible to the challenges posed by climate change, including increased temperatures, erratic rainfall, and severe water scarcity. The report details how these conditions are already affecting production in South Africa, Spain, and particularly in Latin America where the majority of the world's supply is grown. In Mexico alone, avocado farming areas could shrink by 31% by 2050 if global temperatures rise by 2°C.

Economic Impact on Farmers

The environmental challenges have direct economic implications for avocado farmers. Jolis Bigirimana, president of Farmer’s Pride Burundi, articulates a growing concern among growers: escalating costs for water and reduced crop yields. This not only affects the livelihood of the farmers but also the stability of the global supply chain.

Societal and Ecological Concerns

The expansion of avocado production has also led to ecological and societal issues. In Peru and Chile, the surge in avocado farming has intensified local water shortages, affecting smallholder farmers and their communities. This situation is exacerbated by climate change, which threatens to further limit water availability in these arid regions.

Seeking Sustainable Alternatives

In response to the growing environmental footprint of avocado production, food experts are advocating for alternatives. Smashed peas with garlic and mint have been suggested as a more sustainable option that requires less water and is less susceptible to climate volatility.

The report underscores the need for urgent action to mitigate the impacts of climate change on agriculture. Sarah Peake of the Eden Project emphasizes the necessity of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting agricultural systems. She also advocates for consumer awareness, encouraging individuals to consider the environmental impact of their food choices.

As the world faces increasing temperatures and environmental degradation, the plight of the avocado is a stark reminder of the broader challenges confronting global agriculture. The situation calls for a concerted effort from governments, industry stakeholders, and consumers to foster sustainable practices that can support both the planet and the people dependent on it for their livelihoods. As we advance, the choices we make at the dining table will inevitably shape the landscape of global agriculture.