Mexican drug cartels are aiming to control the lemon and avocado industry by threatening and extorting farmers and businessmen to pay monthly “protection fees” based on hectares cultivated and kilos exported, under threat of death.
It should be noted that Mexico is the largest producer and exporter of avocados, contributing 44% of the world market. In fact, in 2020 alone, exports of this product represented earnings of US$ 3,245 million for the country.
Lemons also represent millionaire profits for Mexico, with close to US$ 1 billion obtained from exports of this fruit in 2021.
As such, both products are of high interest to the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG), the New Michoacan Family, the Tepalcatepec Cartel, the Zicuirán Cartel, and Los Viagras, among others.
Although the cartels’ interest in controlling these markets goes back several years, in recent times clashes between criminal gangs have intensified, particularly in the state of Michoacán, considered to be Mexico’s avocado kingdom, which also accounts for almost a third of the country’s lemon production.
Cartel pressures on lemon and avocado growers, coupled with weather factors, have caused a shortage of these products in the country, in addition to raising their price by almost 300% in some areas.
Faced with this situation, close to 3,000 agricultural workers joined forces and took up arms to confront organized crime with the creation of “crop police”.
The government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has criticized the civil defense groups against the cartels because “they do not work”, is also accused of lack of action.
However, the situation became more complicated for Mexico after the United States suspended avocado imports from that country on February 12 until further notice, after a U.S. health inspector received a threat at a Mexican plant. Thus, this sector, which -as mentioned- exports almost US$ 3 billion per year, is put on hold.