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Frustrated Michoacán growers establish blockades to protect their exclusive trade relationship

Tim Nelson
November 08, 2018

In America, eating avocados and/or complaining about them is a national pastime. But in the Mexican state of Michoacán, cultivating avocados is how thousands earn a living. Now, a worker-led strike in opposition to some shady business practices has producers losing out on revenue while laborers hope for a restoration of fair prices.

Beginning last week, 1,000 avocado industry workers walked off the job and set up highway checkpoints in 11 municipalities of Michoacán, Mexico’s chief region for avocado production that enjoys an exclusive export agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture. The goal of the action was to stop the entry of avocados from other Mexican states, as outside growers increasingly route their avocados through Michoacán to pass them off as a “local” product capable of being sold to the lucrative US market.

According to Mexico News Daily, a producer’s industry association estimates that the strike is costing the industry 85 million pesos (about $4.3 million) per day, as the flow of 3,000 daily tons of avocado from Michoacán to the US has greatly diminished. Ramón Paz, spokesman for the Mexican Association of Avocado Producers and Packers (APEAM), also says that the ongoing strike has already led to the cancellation of advertising contracts with the United States.

The decision to strike was made in response to worsening economic conditions on the part of growers. Local producers have received just 20 pesos ($1) per kilo over the past two months, down from 60 pesos ($3) before faux Michoacán avocados artificially flooded the region’s supply. According to information from an avocado growers’ association representative cited by Mexican paper El Universal, 70% of Michoacan’s avocado orchards are now on strike, a figure that encompasses more than 24,000 workers in all. They’ve demanded a price floor of 35 pesos ($1.75) per kilo in order to alleviate the layoffs and downward economic mobility caused by the depressed prices.

In the days since the launch of the strike, the two sides have at least come to the bargaining table. An initial November 4th meeting was convened so APEAM could explain to disgruntled growers “what the economic framework and legal regulations are, and why prices cannot be set by decree,” according to Paz. The sides were able to make some progress, and 180 trucks would be allowed to pass through the blockades. A further meeting was held on Tuesday the 6th, in which the sides decided to convene another meeting to “incorporat[e] proposals to give value to the avocado” on November 15th.

With the situation ongoing, it’s perhaps inevitable that US consumers will see price increases while supply lines remain squeezed. Hopefully workers can arrive at a resolution that won’t keep you away from a fair price for your precious avocado toast for too long.  

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