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Imports of avocados into the U.S. first began in 1997 as a result of NAFTA, so we're throwing them a little birthday party

Mike Pomranz
November 16, 2017

The North American Free Trade Agreement, also known as NAFTA, has reemerged as a hot topic in the past year as President Trump has questioned the merits of the multination deal. But here’s a fact about the agreement you might not be aware of: We have NAFTA to thank for Mexican avocados. According to the marketing organization Avocados From Mexico, the 1994 deal paved the way for Mexican avocados to be imported into the United States, which first occurred 20 years ago in 1997. And to honor this momentous two-decade anniversary, the group threw a celebration this week.

Taking place at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C., the “fiesta” – which was hosted by Avocados From Mexico, the promotional arm of the Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association – featured authentic Mexican cuisine and drinks crafted by PBS chef Pati Jinich, the exclusive premiere of the Avocados From Mexico docu-series, “Avocadoland,” and the highlight of any party, a panel discussion!

But jokes about panel discussions aside, Avocados From Mexico has plenty of facts about just how big of an impact Mexican avocados have had in the States over the past 20 years. Once more of an exotic novelty, avocados are now “regularly consumed in more than 50 percent of U.S. households,” according to the group. “We've seen a meteoric surge in the popularity of avocados from Mexico during the last 20 years,” Alvaro Luque, president of Avocados From Mexico, said in a statement. “In 1997, Mexico began shipping avocados to the United States, and by 2016, 76% of the more than 2.2 billion pounds of avocados in the U.S. were Mexican avocados.” As a result, Mexican avocados have led to “the creation of almost 19,000 American jobs in the U.S., which means $1.2 billion in labor income,” said Ramon Paz-Vega, strategic advisor to the Association of Producers and Packers Exporters of Avocado in Mexico.

For those inevitably wondering, well, aren’t all those avocados cutting into the California avocado market? The answer appears to be: not really. First, avocado prices have already soared this year because demand has outstripped supply, meaning there’s plenty of room for all avocados, regardless of origin. Meanwhile, unlike California, Mexico is able to produce avocados all year round (though California is trying to figure out ways to do that too). So, yes, Mexican avocados really are worth celebrating. Can you imagine just how horrible the world must have been way back in 1996?