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Last updated: 25 April 2024

Is Avocado  Bad For The Environment? Statistics, Trends & Facts

Avocados and products from it

With their creamy texture and rich, nutty flavour, avocados have become a staple in many diets worldwide. From avocado toast to guacamole, this versatile fruit has found its way into various dishes, making it a favourite among food enthusiasts and health-conscious individuals. 

The popularity of avocados has skyrocketed in recent years, with over 2.4 million avocado-related posts on Instagram in 2018 alone. 

The avocado is a food without rival among the fruits, the veritable fruit of paradise

However, as the popularity of avocados continues to soar, a pressing question arises: "Is avocado bad for the environment?" This article aims to explore this question, presenting a balanced argument supported by facts and data.

The Rise of the Avocado

Avocados weren't always the showstopper that they are now. In the 90s, avocados had a hard time being on the market as they couldn't be successfully advertised due to diet trends that looked down upon consuming fatty foods. 

According to Statista reports, annual avocado consumption rose to 436.6 million pounds by 1985. Today, avocados are still associated with healthy eating, with many consumers citing "good fats" and overall "health" as their top two reasons for buying avocados.

What Do We Mean By Avocado Farming Exactly? 

Avocado farming is the process of planting and harvesting avocados, primarily for their fruit. Avocado trees take about 3-5 years to produce their first crop of avocados. Avocados are grown in warm, humid climates of about 60 to 80 per cent humidity, with the majority grown abroad in places like Peru, the Dominican Republic, Kenya, Columbia, and Brazil.

The world's largest producer of avocados is Mexico.

The Environmental Impact of Avocados

While avocados have become a beloved food item, their environmental impact is a growing concern. The main environmental issues of avocado production include water usage, carbon footprint, and soil degradation.

1. Water Usage

Avocado farming is a water-intensive process. It takes a whopping 320 litres of water to produce just one avocado. This means it takes around four times the amount of water to make almonds for almond milk. 

In comparison, the World Avocado Organisation (WAO) suggests that avocados require less water than fruits such as bananas (790 litres) or apples (822 litres). 

However, the water consumption of avocados can vary significantly depending on the region. For instance, in Petorca, Chile, a region that supplies many of the UK's avocados, it takes about 320 litres of applied water to grow one avocado, compared to an average of 70 litres. 

This high water demand puts incredible pressure on a region's water supply, especially in areas where water scarcity is already a problem. 

2. Carbon Footprint

Avocados have a high carbon footprint, with around 0.85kg (1.9 lbs) of CO2e per pound of avocados. This is primarily due to transportation emissions, as most avocados consumed in the United States are imported. The exact amount of beef produced is 4 kilograms, lamb 3.4 kilograms, cheese 3.15 kilograms, and pork 1 kilogram. 

3. Soil Degradation

Large-scale avocado farming can lead to soil degradation. Monoculture crops like avocados draw all the nutrients from the soil, slowly degrading it year after year. This makes the soil less fertile over time until it is no longer viable for growing. 

4. Deforestation

Avocado production has also been linked to deforestation, particularly in Mexico, the world's largest producer of avocados. The expansion of avocado plantations has led to the clearing of forests, contributing to climate change, extinction, increased carbon in the atmosphere, and soil erosion. 

The high global demand for avocados is leading to deforestation and water shortages in some producing regions. Consumers need to be aware of the environmental impact of their food choices.

In the past decade, avocado orchards have increased by 162 per cent in Michoacan, 511 per cent in Mexico, and nearly 1001 per cent in Jalisco. 

A Balanced Perspective

While the environmental impact of avocados is undeniable, it's essential to put it into perspective. For instance, a single avocado requires 140-272 litres of water, but the same amount of beef requires 2,315 litres of water. Similarly, the average carbon footprint of one avocado is around 0.19 kilograms of CO2 equivalents, while the same amount of meat produces 4 kilograms.

In other words, while avocados have an environmental impact, they are significantly less than animal products. Furthermore, well-managed avocado plantations can be sustainable and unproblematic. 

For instance, approximately 61% of the avocado orchards in Michoacán, Mexico, rely on natural, seasonal irrigation, and another 36% utilise sustainable, high-tech irrigation such as drip irrigation. Moreover, consumers can help by opting for locally grown avocados when possible and consuming them in moderation.

This table provides a comparative analysis of the environmental impact of avocados.

AspectImpact
Water Consumption320 litres per avocado
DeforestationSignificant in Mexico
Carbon Footprint0.19 kg CO2 equivalents per avocado
Economic ImpactPositive for many communities
Sustainable PracticesIncreasingly adopted by producers

Water consumption and carbon footprint of avocados in comparison with other fruits

FruitWater Consumption (litres per unit)Carbon Footprint (kg CO2e per unit)
Avocado3200.19
Banana7901.4
Pear920 (estimated)0.34
Apple8220.33
Almond12,000 (estimated)3.56 (organic, dry)

Which Country Grow the Most Avocados?

But where do these delicious fruits come from? Let's explore the top countries that have produced the most avocados for the past years, from 2019 to 2021, according to data from Statista and World Population Review.

RankCountryMetric Tonnes Produced in 2021Metric Tonnes Produced in 2020Metric Tonnes Produced in 2019
1Mexico2,442,9452,393,8492,300,889
2Colombia979,618829,147535,021
3Peru777,096672,232571,992
4Indonesia669,260609,049461,613
5Dominican Republic634,368620,087665,652
6Kenya416,803322,556264,032
7Brazil300,894266,784242,723
8Haiti248,135179,333198,976
9Vietnam212,977158,889110,520
10Chile169,031161,210151,970

With their tropical climates and fertile soils, these countries provide the perfect conditions for avocado cultivation. As the demand for avocados continues to rise, these countries play a crucial role in meeting the global market for this beloved fruit.

Is Avocados Sustainable?

Avocado production has both positive and negative impacts on sustainability. On the positive side, avocado farming can be profitable for farmers, providing enough income to send their children to college or to buy a new pickup truck. 

Other aspects are data-driven decision-making, effective management of water and nutrients, and adopting eco-friendly pest and disease control methods that can make avocado farming more sustainable and economically viable. 

However, there are several reasons why avocado production can be considered unsustainable. Avocado trees are often part of monoculture plantations, which can result in less nutrient-dense soil and encourage using fertilisers and pesticides. The World Economic Forum reports that around 9.5 billion litres of water are used daily to grow avocados. This high water usage puts pressure on a region's water supply and can negatively impact local food security

Furthermore, the international trade of avocados contributes to a significant carbon footprint due to the long distances the fruit travels to reach consumers in the Global North. For example, a Mexican avocado must travel 5555 miles to the UK. This transportation results in excess greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. 

Is Avocados Toxic?

There is a common belief that avocados are toxic, especially for dogs. However, recent research suggests that this claim might be a myth. A study by the University of Illinois found that incorporating avocado meal (dried, ground, and defatted seed, pulp, and skin left over after avocado oil processing) into dog food could offer nutritional benefits without causing harm. 

Also, regular consumption of avocados has been linked to various health benefits, such as improved digestion, lower risk of depression, better gut health, weight control, and potential cancer-fighting properties. This is due to its nutrient richness, including fibre, healthy fats, vitamins C, E, B6, potassium, magnesium, and folate.

What is the Waste Distribution of Avocados?

 The avocado distribution chain generates a significant amount of waste. Over 1.3 billion tonnes of avocados are discarded yearly at various stages of the food chain: pre-harvest, in factories, in transit, and at the consumer level.

This waste includes the fruit itself and the peels and seeds, which are often discarded during processing. 

Innovative Solutions for Avocado Waste Management

innovative solutions are emerging to address the issue of waste in avocado distribution. One such solution is the development of small-scale biorefineries that can convert avocado waste into value-added products, such as biofuels. For instance, the seeds and peels of avocados, often considered waste, can be processed into biodiesel or bioethanol. 

Companies are also finding ways to reduce waste by upcycling discarded avocados. For example, Soilmates, a company based in the EU, has been pressing 'ugly' avocados into pure avocado oil, rescuing 360,000 kilograms in 2021 alone.

Is Avocados Biodegradable?

Yes, avocados are biodegradable. Researchers have found ways to use parts of avocados, such as peels and pits, to create biodegradable materials. 

Avocado peels can create biodegradable films, potentially replacing plastic as a packaging material. These films are robust, transparent, and biodegrade within 30 days at 22% soil moisture, making them an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional plastic packaging. 

For instance, Biofase has developed a process to transform avocado pits into biodegradable plastics, such as cutlery and straws. These biodegradable materials break down much faster than traditional plastics, reducing their environmental impact.

What Can You Do With Leftover Avocados?

Leftover avocados can be used in the kitchen and for personal care. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Cooking and Baking: Avocados can be used in various recipes. They can be used in salads, sandwiches, or as a topping for toast. You can also use them creatively, such as in avocado-smothered chicken, avocado gelato, avocado fries, or even in chocolate desserts like truffles and pudding.
  2. Drinks: Avocados can be liquified and used in smoothies or other beverages.
  3. Dips and Spreads: Use avocados to make guacamole, salsa, or hummus.
  4. Skin Care: Avocados are rich in healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals that can benefit your skin. You can use the flesh of an avocado or oil directly on your skin to hydrate and moisturise it. Avocados can also make face masks like avocado and honey deep moisture face masks.
  5. Hair Care: The natural oils in avocados can be used to moisturise your hair and scalp.

To store leftover avocados, sprinkle the exposed flesh with lemon or lime juice, cover it tightly with clear plastic wrap, and store it in the refrigerator. This method can keep the avocado fresh for up to three days.

What Are Avocados Alternatives?

Fortunately, several alternatives to avocados can provide similar textures, tastes, or nutritional profiles. Here are some of the most common substitutes:

Here are some other options for avocados, along with their nutritional values and prices:

Avocado AlternativeNutritional ValuePrice (per 100g)
Pumpkin26 calories, 0.1g fat, 6.5g carbs, 1g protein£0.12
Butternut Squash45 calories, 0.1g fat, 11.7g carbs, 1g protein£0.14
Nut Butter588 calories, 50g fat, 22g carbs, 25g protein£0.50
Greek Yogurt59 calories, 0.4g fat, 3.6g carbs, 10.2g protein£0.16
Banana96 calories, 0.3g fat, 22g carbs, 1.1g protein£0.15
Silken Tofu55 calories, 2.3g fat, 2.1g carbs, 5.5g protein£0.20
Soaked Pistachios562 calories, 45g fat, 28g carbs, 20g protein£1.50
Pinto Beans347 calories, 1.2g fat, 63g carbs, 21g protein£0.15
Chayote Squash19 calories, 0.1g fat, 4.5g carbs, 0.8g protein£0.50
Peas81 calories, 0.4g fat, 14g carbs, 5g protein£0.10
Artichoke Hearts47 calories, 0.2g fat, 11g carbs, 3.4g protein£0.30
Hummus166 calories, 9.6g fat, 14g carbs, 7.9g protein£0.20
Pesto285 calories, 28g fat, 4.5g carbs, 2.8g protein£0.40
Edamame122 calories, 5.2g fat, 9.9g carbs, 11g protein£0.30

Avocados, often called "green gold," have significantly increased global popularity over the past decade. Here are some key statistics, trends, and facts about the worldwide avocado industry based on Statistica and Fairtrade:

Global Avocado Statistics 

From 2023 to 2030, the avocado market is expected to continue its positive growth trajectory, reaching an estimated value of £22.3 billion by 2030.

The global avocado market was valued at over £7.15 billion in 2021 and is forecast to reach more than £15.8 billion by 2026

The avocado consumption market was valued at £7.36 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach £10.75 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 4.83% from 2020 to 2027

Mexico is the world's leading producer of avocados, accounting for 30% of global output.

Other significant producers include Chile, Colombia, and Peru, which have increased production by 15% and 12% respectively.

In Asia-Pacific, Indonesia is the largest avocado-consuming country, accounting for 52% of total volume.

The United States is the largest import market for avocados, valued at £2.62 billion in 2022.

Global avocado production has increased at a rapid pace, with a compound annual growth rate of 7% to a total of 8.4 million metric tons in 2022

The United States is the largest consumer of avocados, followed by Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

CountryProduction (in tonnes)Consumption (in tonnes)
Mexico2,300,0001,000,000
Dominican Republic650,000500,000
Peru500,000200,000
United States350,0001,500,000
Colombia400,000300,000

Trends and Insights

  1. The avocado industry is experiencing a notable upswing driven by the growing emphasis on adopting healthy dietary choices and the expanding cohort of health-conscious consumers.
  2. The processed segment is anticipated to register a faster CAGR in the avocado industry, driven by the need for convenient meals from a work-centric population.
  3. The rising snacking trend is also expected to boost the global market in the coming years.
  4. There is a trend towards ready-to-eat products, leading to a drop in sales for unripened avocados.
  5. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) enacted in 1994 led to the avocado's world domination, with the US lifting its ban on Mexican avocados.

Interesting Facts

  1. Avocados are native to Mexico and Central America.
  2. The word avocado comes from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word "ahuácatl", meaning testicle.
  3. Avocados are single-seeded berries.
  4. The heaviest recorded avocado in the world weighed 2.19 kg.
  5. Avocado beats banana in potassium content.
  6. The most famous type of avocado is the Hass avocado.

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