Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he’s soliciting donations to build the US-Mexico border wall

Greg Abbott
Governor Greg Abbott speaks at the National Rifle Association-Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum in Dallas, Friday, May 4, 2018.

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he would solicit donations from the public to fund Texas’ border wall.
  • Abbott said he would welcome financial support from around the world.
  • The governor announced last week that Texas would begin building its own border wall.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told a podcast host on Tuesday that he would solicit donations from the public to fund the construction of Texas’ border wall.

Abbott said he would formally unveil the effort later this week and welcomed financial support from around the world.

“I will also be providing a link that you can click on and go to for everybody in the United States – really everybody in the entire world – who wants to help Texas build the border wall, there will be a place on there where they can contribute,” Abbott said during an interview on the podcast “Ruthless.”

The governor announced last week that Texas would begin building its own border wall after President Joe Biden stopped most construction of the barrier when he took office in January. The governor also said his state would step up its arrests of migrants illegally crossing the border.

“Only Congress and the president can fix our broken border,” Abbott said during a speech at border security conference in Del Rio. “But in the meantime, Texas is going to do everything possible, including beginning to make arrests, to keep our community safe.”

The governor provided few details about how he would collect and spend the donated money, but said it would go to a fund “overseen by the state of Texas in the governor’s office” and pledged “great transparency.”

A different effort to raise money to build the border wall ended in scandal. During Trump’s presidency, Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage and former top Trump advisor Steve Bannon raised more than $25 million for a border wall fund Kolfage created called We Build the Wall. Bannon, Kolfage, and two of their associates were arrested and charged with fraud. Bannon was pardoned by Trump shortly before the ex-president left office.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Mexico’s air force has a new mission: seeding clouds to combat drought

Mexico air force
Mexican air force aircraft release smoke with the colors of the Mexican flag as they fly over the Independence Day military parade in Mexico City, September 16, 2013.

  • Areas of Mexico facing extreme or exceptional drought conditions have increased due to lack of rain.
  • To combat the prolonged drought, Mexico’s air force has been assigned a new mission: seeding clouds.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Mexican air force has been assigned a new mission: seeding clouds in an effort to combat the prolonged drought.

The drought has affected as much as 85% of Mexico’s territory since July last year, leaving large reservoirs at exceptionally low levels, straining water resources for drinking, farming, and irrigation.

As of May 31 the area affected had declined to 72% due to rainfall in many parts of the country. However, areas facing extreme or exceptional drought conditions – located in Sonora, Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango, Nayarit, Colima and Michoacán – increased due to a shortage of rain.

Cloud seeding thickens clouds and increases the probability of rain by up to 15%, using an acetone solution and silver iodide, which is commonly used as an antiseptic or in photography.

The chemical, prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture, is transported by plane to clouds at 5,000 meters high.
Air force pilot Guadalupe Rojas explained the method.

“When we arrive at the area, we do a preliminary reconnaissance before starting the seeding. The type of clouds is analyzed, and once safety is guaranteed, we take an entry point and enter below the cloud. We search for any ascending currents and spread the chemical,” he said.

The process was tested last March in the San Quintín Valley, Baja California, and later in Nuevo León and Coahuila to help battle fires resulting from the drought.

Air force meteorology expert Francisco Ramírez said the operation is weather dependent. “We always need adequate weather conditions. In the case of Nuevo León there was a fire, but a cold spell helped and … [the cloud seeding] worked,” he said.

He added that the operation will continue in Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Sonora, where the drought remains prevalent.

With reports from Milenio.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Mexican president says migration meeting with Kamala Harris went so well he called her ‘president’

President of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Vice President Kamala Harris
President of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Vice President Kamala Harris arrive during a private meeting at Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico, on June 08, 2021.

  • Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador praised Kamala Harris after meeting her this week.
  • “It was such a good meeting that I called her ‘president,'” López Obrador told reporters Wednesday.
  • Harris held in-person meetings with Mexico’s president to discuss the migrant crisis.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador only had words of praise for “extraordinary” Vice President Kamala Harris after the two met to discuss the migration crisis this week, according to Reuters.

“It’s a completely new phase,” López Obrador told reporters during a news conference on Wednesday, Reuters reported. “It was such a good meeting that I called her ‘president.'”

López Obrador also said bilateral relations had broken new ground and that another top Biden administration official would visit next week for more discussions.

Read more: Court documents from the prosecution of a fake doctor who administered bogus vaccines give a glimpse into Kamala Harris’ thinking on immigration

Harris travelled to Guatemala and Mexico earlier this week as part of her efforts to address illegal immigration into the US – a trip she hailed as a success.

However, the vice president came under fire after she told Guatemalan migrants to “not come” to the US, doubling down on the Biden administration’s stance that migrants need to find a legal pathway into the country.

According to CNN, some White House officials were also “quietly perplexed” after Harris defended not yet visiting the US-Mexico border. So far, Harris has not given a date for that visit despite promising she would go in March.

López Obrador’s praise for the vice president offers a stark contrast to his thoughts on Former President Donald Trump, whose administration he once likened to Nazi Germany for its migration policies.

The number of migrants arriving at the US border has spiked since President Joe Biden took office, including hundreds of unaccompanied minors.

Read the original article on Business Insider

White House returns $2 billion from Trump’s border wall to the military. The former president built 52 miles, at an average cost of $46 million per mile.

trump border wall prototypes
President Donald Trump speaks in front of a border wall prototype near San Diego in 2018.

  • The White House on Friday reverted about $2 billion in border wall spending back to the military.
  • Trump’s 52 miles of new wall cost an average of $46 million per mile, Biden’s administration said.
  • It wasn’t “a serious policy solution or responsible use of federal funds,” the White House said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The White House on Friday pulled more than $2 billion in funding the former administration had diverted for its southern border wall project, sending the money back to the military.

President Donald Trump had pitched a “big, beautiful wall” along the border between the US and Mexico. The White House on Friday said the project had taken attention away from “genuine security challenges, like drug smuggling and human trafficking.”

“Building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border and costs American taxpayers billions of dollars is not a serious policy solution or responsible use of federal funds,” The White House Office of Management and Budget said in a briefing on Friday.

While in the Oval Office, Trump built 52 miles of a new wall along the border between the US and Mexico, at an average cost of $46 million per mile, the budget office said. The border between the two countries stretches more than 1,900 miles, some of which already had barriers in place before Trump’s election.

President Joe Biden paused the redirection of funds for the wall on his first day in office. The administration then missed its own deadline for a long-term solution, and reportedly considered restarting some construction.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbot on Thursday said he planned to continue building a wall along his state’s border with Mexico. He planned to spend $1 billion on border security and a task force, The Texas Tribune reported.

Biden’s administration on Friday called for Congress to cancel other previously allocated funds for border wall projects.

The wall construction diverted “critical” military training funds. It also “caused serious risks to life, safety, and the environment,” the White House said.

The more than $2 billion in funding being redirected by Biden’s administration will fund 66 deferred projects in 11 states, three territories, and 16 countries, the budget office said.

The funding will include $10 million for a missile field expansion in Alaska, $25 million for a radio complex in North Carolina, and $79 million for upgrades to an elementary school for US military children in Germany.

Read the original article on Business Insider

To help fight COVID-19, Mexico is going to give away the mansions of 2 once-powerful drug kingpins

el chapo guzman
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, center, arrives at an airport in Long Island during his extradition to the US, January 19, 2017.

  • Mexico’s president recently a “mega raffle” with 22 prizes valued at $12.5 million, the proceeds of which will be used for COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Among the goods being given away are mansions that belonged to two of Mexico’s most well known cartel bosses: Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and Amado Carrillo Fuentes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Ciudad Juarez, MEXICO – The million-dollar houses of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, formerly boss of the Sinaloa Cartel, and Amado Carrillo Fuentes, deceased boss of the Juárez Cartel, will pay for COVID-19 vaccines for Mexicans.

Mexican government recently announced it will hold a “mega raffle” on September 15 with 22 prizes and a total value of $12.5 million, including the two former drug lords’ seized mansions.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the money raised from the lottery will go “back to the people.”

“All of the money raised is going to be delivered to the people and help to buy [COVID-19] vaccines and medicines and to give away some scholarships” he said at his daily morning press conference on May 27.

The houses failed to sell when previously raffled by the Institute to Return Stolen Goods to the People, or Indep, which Lopez Obrador created to redistribute seized assets.

Amado Carrillo Fuentes
Amado Carrillo Fuentes, far left, in a photo found in one of his houses after a raid.

Carrillo Fuentes’ former residence is located in the exclusive Mexico City residential neighborhood of Jardines del Pedregal and is valued at about $4 million, according to Indep.

The property, seized more than 20 years ago, is over 32,000 square feet and has an indoor pool, nine bedrooms, several Jacuzzis and saunas, a wine cellar, and a party salon. According to the listing, Fuentes’ house is fully furnished.

El Chapo’s property is located in Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa state on Mexico’s west coast and his cartel’s home turf. It was where Guzmán escaped arrest in February 2014 by using a secret tunnel under a bathtub. Public records don’t say if the tunnel is still there.

El Chapo’s house has two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, garage and a front garden, according to the public listing. Although more modest, it is valued at $200,000, a high price for Sinaloa’s real-estate market.

The lottery also includes a historic box at the Estadio Azteca, the iconic Mexico City stadium that holds over 87,500 people. The box has its own story: It is where then-President Miguel de la Madrid handed the World Cup trophy to Diego Maradona in 1986, crowning Argentina champion.

Estadio Azteca
Mexico’s Estadio Azteca.

According to the listing, the stadium box is “in an excellent location” and has a 20-person capacity, a bathroom, and four parking spaces. The box is valued at $1 million and would be held until 2065.

In 2019, Mexico offered six other homes seized from Guzmán. Only three sold, bringing in a total of $227,844. One of them, the steel-enforced safe house where Guzmán sheltered after his first prison escape in 2001, went for $107,530.

The government held a similar raffle in September 2020 in which the top prize was the presidential jet, but the $130 million Boeing 787 Dreamliner failed to sell.

Lopez Obrador decided to hold another lottery where 100 winners would get $1 million in cash, but that also failed when only 30% of the tickets were sold. There have been no more attempts to sell the plane.

Drug lords’ mansions

mexico marine drug cartel
A Mexican marine lifts a bathtub covering a tunnel in one of Guzmán’s homes in Culiacan. The tunnel leads to the city’s drainage system.

Guzmán was one of the most notorious and elusive of Mexico’s drug kingpins until his final arrest in Mexico in 2016. He was extradited in 2017 and convicted in a US federal court in 2019 on 10 charges, receiving a life sentence in a US federal “supermax” prison.

In 2009, Forbes magazine ranked Guzmán at number 701 on its annual list of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of $1 billion. (A woman believed to be Guzmán’s eldest daughter has a fashion line called “El Chapo 701,” referring to his ranking.)

Guzmán owned six houses in Culiacan alone. Most are middle-class properties, but they all have one thing in common: a hydraulic system installed under the bathtub to lift the tub and provide access to the municipal sewage tunnels he used to escape.

He also owned an apartment in Mazatlán, Sinaloa’s most famous tourist beach. The property is part of the Miramar apartment complex and is where he was last captured. The complex became a tourist attraction and remains Mexican government property.

El Chapo also built a picturesque luxury hacienda for his mother, Consuelo Loera, in the town of Badiraguato in the mountains of Sinaloa, where Guzmán was born. The hacienda has four rooms, a large kitchen, and a small chapel in the back.

Mexico Sinaloa Badiraguato Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sign billboard
A billboard welcoming Lopez Obrador ahead of his visit to Badiraguato, February 15, 2019.

After a violent attack by a group believed to be Guzmán’s enemies in 2016, Consuelo Loera left the property, which remains abandoned.

Carrillo Fuentes – known as ‘El señor de los cielos,’ or “the lord of the skies,” for using planes to smuggle tons of drugs into the US – died 1997 during plastic surgery to change his appearance.

Many of Carrillo Fuentes’ properties have met the same fate that Guzmán’s now face. His more luxurious residences – among them a 2,000-square-foot apartment and a 6,000-acre ranch – were in Argentina, where he lived for a year in 1996.

In 2018, Argentina auctioned his three properties there, selling them for a total of $14 million.

He had several other properties in Mexico, including an arabesque-like mansion in Hermosillo, in the northern state of Sonora, and a luxurious mansion in southwestern Jalisco state; the latter was known as “Casa Versace” after the Italian brand established its first Mexican boutique in 1994.

Carrillo’s property in Sonora was recently demolished by the state government, while Casa Versace was bought by a private owner and turned into a reception hall.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The US State Department just relaxed COVID-19 travel advisories on Canada and Mexico

Travelers are seen at John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport
Travelers are seen at John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport ahead of Memorial day weekend on May 28, 2021 in New York City.

  • The US State Department revised travel advisories about Canada and Mexico.
  • Previously, it warned against all travel to both countries due to COVID-19 risk.
  • Now, it asks that people with plans to travel to Canada or Mexico to just “reconsider.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Department of State on Tuesday relaxed its COVID-19 travel advisories for people planning trips to Canada and Mexico.

The State Department now recommends people in the US with plans to travel to either Canada or Mexico “reconsider” their plans due to the risk of COVID-19, a Level 3 advisory from the department.

Previously, the State Department had urged Americans against all travel to Canada or Mexico under its most serious Level 4 “Do Not Travel” designation.

More than 51% of the US population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As the vaccination rate has increased, so has air travel. At the end of May, the Transportation Security Administration said it had screened nearly 2 million air travelers – the highest number since the pandemic began.

Read the original article on Business Insider

These countries will get 25 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from the US

Covid Vaccine
COVID-19 vaccine

  • The US will send 25 million vaccine doses to countries in Central and South America, Asia and Africa.
  • “This is just the beginning,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said.
  • Shipments will take place over the next several weeks.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The United States will send 25 million excess COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries all over the world, the White House announced Thursday.

Nearly 19 million of the doses will be given through COVAX, the UN-backed global vaccine sharing program that helps vulnerable countries.

In total, 7 million of those doses will be donated to nations in South and Southeast Asia, including India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Philippines, and Vietnam. Another 6 million doses will be shipped across Central and South America, including to Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti, and El Salvador. Approximately 5 million doses will be delivered to countries in Africa, coordinated through the African Union.

The remaining 6 million doses will be given directly to allies and countries seeing surges in COVID-19 cases, including Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Egypt, Iraq, and the West Bank and Gaza, the White House said.

“As long as this pandemic is raging anywhere in the world, the American people will still be vulnerable,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “And the United States is committed to bringing the same urgency to international vaccination efforts that we have demonstrated at home.”

“This is just the beginning,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said during a Thursday briefing. The doses will consist of Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, Zients confirmed.

Vaccine shipments will take place over the next several weeks. The US plans to share a total of 80 million excess doses with the rest of the world by the end of June – five times the amount any other country has committed to donating, according to the White House.

“A number of those are even going to go out as soon as today,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a news conference Thursday.

The White House reiterated that the US has secured enough supply to fully vaccinate Americans and the doses that will be shipped come from a surplus in the US stockpile.

The announcement comes ahead of Biden’s meeting in the United Kingdom with the Group of Seven nations next week. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan noted on Thursday that the US plans to work with those countries to help end the pandemic.

“Our goal in sharing our vaccines is in service of ending the pandemic globally,” Sullivan said during a White House coronavirus task force briefing Thursday. “Our overarching aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Mexico’s powerful Jalisco cartel is hunting down and killing members of an elite police force in their homes

Mexico oil refinery sign Salamanca Guanajuato
A sign at Mexican national oil company Pemex’s refinery in Salamanca, in Guanajuato state, September 19, 2017.

  • The Jalisco New Generation Cartel is targeting and killing police officers at their homes in Mexico’s most violent state.
  • The cartel has declared war on the Guanajuato state police’s elite Tactical Group, which it says treats its members unfairly.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) is targeting and killing police officers at their homes in Guanajuato, Mexico’s most violent state and the most dangerous for police.

According to a report by the Associated Press (AP), the cartel abducted several members of an elite police force in Guanajuato and tortured them to obtain names and addresses of other officers.

Now CJNG members are showing up at officers’ homes on their days off and murdering them in front of their families, the news agency said.

According to Poplab, a news cooperative in Guanajuato, at least seven officers have been murdered on their days off in 2021.

AP said the offensive against the state police officers – members of a force known as the Tactical Group – poses “the most direct challenge yet” to President López Obrador’s so-called “hugs, not bullets” policy, which is characterized by the desire to avoid conflict with cartels and instead focus on addressing the root causes of crime through government welfare and social programs.

However, the CJNG – generally considered Mexico’s most powerful and violent criminal organization – doesn’t share the desire to avoid conflict, having declared war on the Tactical Group, which it says has treated its members unfairly.

Mexico Guanajuato police
Police stand guard behind sandbags at the entrance to Santa Rosa de Lima, birthplace of a local cartel that goes by the same name, in Guanajuato state, Mexico, February 12, 2020.

“If you want war, you’ll get a war. We have already shown that we know where you are. We are coming for all of you,” read a professionally printed CJNG banner that was hung on a building in Guanajuato this month.

“For each member of [the CJNG] that you arrest, we are going to kill two of your Tacticals, wherever they are, at their homes, in their patrol vehicles,” the banner said.

AP said that officials in Guanajuato – where the CJNG is engaged in a turf war with the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel and other local gangs supported by the Sinaloa Cartel – refused to comment on how many members of the Tactical Group have been killed.

State police did, however, publicly acknowledge the latest case in which an officer was kidnapped from his home last Thursday and killed. His body was dumped on a highway.

Without offering an exact figure, Guanajuato-based security analyst David Saucedo said there have been many cases of cartel violence against police.

“A lot of them [the elite police officers] have decided to desert. They took their families, abandoned their homes and they are fleeing and in hiding,” he told AP. “The CJNG is hunting the elite police force of Guanajuato. … This is an open war against the security forces of the state government.”

Cartel gunmen went to the home of a policewoman in January, where they kidnapped her and killed her husband. The female officer was subsequently tortured and shot dead.

Tactical Group officers are among the 262 police who have been killed in Guanajuato between 2018 and May 12. According to Poplab, more police have been killed in Guanajuato than in any other state since at least 2018.

The average since that year of about 75 killings of police per year in Guanajuato is higher than the annual average of officers killed in the entire United States, which has a population 50 times that of the Bajío region state.

Violence against police in Guanajuato, Mexico’s worst state for homicides in recent years, has become so bad that the state government published a special decree on May 17 in which it pledged to provide an unspecified amount of funding for mechanisms to protect police and prison officials.

Mexico Guanajuato police
A policeman drives past town hall in Apaseo El Alto, Guanajuato state, February 10, 2020.

“Unfortunately, organized crime groups have shown up at the homes of police officers, which poses a threat and a greater risk of loss of life, not just for them, but for members of their families,” said the decree issued by Gov. Diego Sinhue.

“They have been forced to quickly leave their homes and move so that organized crime groups cannot find them.”

AP said that state officials refused to describe the protection measures offered to police. They also declined to comment on whether officers would receive financial assistance to rent new homes or whether there were plans to build secure housing compounds for police and their families.

Federal security forces are deployed in Guanajuato but have failed to stem the violence or put any significant dent in criminal activity.

The federal government argues that its “hugs, not bullets” approach to security will result in a reduction in violence, but 2 1/2 years after it took office, homicide numbers remain extremely high, declining just 0.4% in 2020 from the record set in 2019 despite the coronavirus pandemic and the deployment of almost 100,000 National Guard troops.

Despite a campaign promise to withdraw the military from the nation’s streets, López Obrador has continued to use the armed forces for public security tasks but given them a clear directive to avoid direct confrontations with cartels wherever possible.

Former United States ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau said last month that the president sees combating cartels as a distraction from his political agenda and has adopted a laissez-faire attitude toward them.

“He sees the cartels … as a distraction from focusing on his agenda. So he has basically adopted a pretty laissez-faire attitude towards them, which is troubling to our government, obviously. I think it’s a big problem for Mexico,” he said.

Source: AP (en), Infobae (sp)

Read the original article on Business Insider

Ted Cruz said it’s ‘awesome’ that airlines are touting travel deals to Cancún, 3 months after he flew into political firestorm over his own trip to Mexico while Texas was freezing, with no power or heat

Ted Cruz
GOP Sen. Ted Cruz gestures as he speaks to members of the media during the fifth day of the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, February 13, 2021.

  • Sen. Ted Cruz said it was “awesome” that an airline was offering a discounted flight to Cancún.
  • The tweet came three months after he faced immense backlash over his trip to Mexico while Texas endured freezing temperatures and power outages.
  • Critics slammed Cruz over his tweet, accusing him of joking about the trip as Texas froze.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted Tuesday that it was “awesome” that airlines are offering discounted deals to Cancún, three months after he faced backlash over his trip to Mexico during the Texas winter storms.

The Texas senator was embroiled in a political firestorm in February as Texas residents endured freezing temperatures and widespread power outages. More than 150 people died during the frigid winter storms, with causes of death ranging from hypothermia to carbon monoxide poisoning.

A tweet by ABC13 Houston shared an article about low-cost airline Sun Country Airlines, reading: “Excited to travel again? This airline can hook you up with a cheap flight to sunny Cancún or even Las Vegas!”

Cruz reshared the tweet with the caption: “Awesome!”

Read more: Neera Tanden is now one of at least 61 Center for American Progress alumni working for the Biden administration

Twitter users slammed Cruz in replies to the tweet, alluding to Cruz’s comment as a joke in light of the controversy spurred by his own trip to Cancún.

“The people of your state were in dire straits when you willfully abandoned them,” one Twitter user wrote. “The fact that you are joking about it confirms that you have no regrets.”

“Making jokes about how you abandoned your state leading to a child freezing to death does not make it ok,” another person replied.

In February, Cruz was lambasted after photos emerged of him at the airport heading to Cancún, and protestors gathered outside his home the following day. The trip was further corroborated by leaked text messages of his wife Heidi Cruz planning the Cancún trip with other families.

At the time, Democrats slammed the Republican senator for taking the trip, calling for him to resign.

“People in Texas are literally freezing to death and yet Ted Cruz went on vacation to Cancun,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington tweeted. “I guess spending so much time denying climate change must leave him pretty exhausted.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex renewed her calls for Cruz’s resignation. She had originally demanded he step down over his response to the Capitol riots.

“If Sen. Cruz had resigned back in January after helping gin up a violent insurrection that killed several people, he could’ve taken his vacation in peace,” she tweeted at the time. “Texans should continue to demand his resignation.”

In a statement responding to the backlash, Cruz said his daughters ask to take the trip and that he only intended to fly down with them overnight and return back to Texas the next day.

A representative for Cruz did not immediately answer Insider’s request for comment and whether the tweet was in reference to his trip in February.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Why avocados are so expensive

  • Avocado has become one of the world’s trendiest foods, but they require an extraordinary amount of costly resources and labor in order to grow.
  • Avocado prices have rocketed in recent years by up to 129%, with the average national price of a single Hass avocado reaching $2.10 in 2019, almost doubling in just one year.
  • We break down what makes avocados so expensive.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Avocado has become one of the world’s trendiest foods. As the poster child of millennial healthy eating, this superfood is now a mainstay for foodies everywhere. But have you noticed your avo on toast is costing more and more? Avocado prices have rocketed in recent years by up to 129%, with the average national price of a single Hass avocado reaching $2.10 in 2019, almost doubling in just one year. So, why are avocados so expensive?

Archaeologists in Peru have found domesticated avocado seeds buried with Incan mummies dating back to 750 BC. But it was the Aztecs in 500 BC who named it āhuacatl, which translates to “testicle.” When Spanish conquistadors swept through Mexico and Central America in the 16th century, they renamed it aguacate. The farming of aguacate developed over the next few hundred years, predominantly in Central America and South America. But consumption of the “alligator pear” outside of these regions before the late 19th century was almost nonexistent.

The commercialization of aguacate began in the early 1900s but was focused on branding avocados as a delicacy for the wealthy, like this advert in The New Yorker from 1920, which declared them as “The aristocrat of salad fruit.” But a selection of Californian growers realized that the hard-to-pronounce aguacate was off-putting for the mass market, so they formed the California Avocado Association. By the 1950s, production scale grew, and avocado prices fell to about 25 cents each. Popularity increased further with the wave of inter-American immigration in the ’60s, as Latin Americans brought their love of avocados with them to the US. But as demand increased, supply had to keep up, and the true difficulties of yielding large-scale avocado crops began to show. Avocado orchards require an extraordinary amount of costly resources in order to flourish.

Gus Gunderson: There are multiple inputs that avocados require, whether it’s water, fertilizer, pruning, pest control, the sunburn protection of trees. All those go into making your chances better of having a very good-quality crop. When we decide to plant an avocado orchard, we’ll plant trees that come from certified nurseries. We have to place our orders years in advance. On average, if we’re producing 100,000 pounds per acre, that takes about a million gallons of water, so 100 gallons per pound, so it’d be about 50 gallons per 8-ounce fruit. But that’s dependent on what mother nature will throw at you, you know, we have wind, we have intense sun. It’s really hard for a grower to manage the unmanageable things that will affect a crop.

Narrator: The surge in popularity of avocados stalled during the fat-fighting frenzy of the 1980s, with an average of only 1 pound per capita being consumed in America by 1989. The decade’s low-fat obsession drove consumers away from avocado because of its high fat content, without really understanding the nutritional truth hidden within.

Hazel Wallace: When it comes to fat in food in general, people tend to get a little bit concerned because we often hear in the media that fat isn’t good for us. But the type of fat that’s in avocados is monounsaturated fat, which is actually often deemed healthy fat or heart-healthy fat, so while there is a lot of fat in avocados, it’s actually quite good fat.

Narrator: Avocado started its meteoric comeback at the turn of the millennium, and it was helped by an unlikely political decision. In 2005, the US Department of Agriculture lifted a 90-year-old ban to allow the importation of Mexican avocados to all 50 states. Initially, this decision angered Californian growers, who feared the move could slash local growers’ sales by as much as 20%.

Harold Edwards: What actually had transpired and took place was, as that Mexican supply became much more prevalent and available, retailers got behind marketing and selling avocados, food service providers, restaurants started putting it as permanent parts of their menus, and demand started to boom because the inconsistent supply chains before were now consistent, and consumers were allowed to enjoy avocados every day of the year.

Narrator: The biggest day of the avocado calendar became Super Bowl Sunday, when it’s now estimated that almost 200 million pounds of avocados are eaten during the big game in America. But if you take a moment to consider the resources needed to produce that amount, you can start to understand avocados’ elevated prices. According to experts, it takes roughly 270 liters of water to grow a pound of avocados. So 200 million pounds could require as much as 54 billion liters of water, which means droughts or heat waves can have devastating consequences on the avocado industry. In fact, that’s exactly what’s been happening in California for the last seven years, with the Sunshine State only recently being declared drought-free in 2019, which goes a long way to explaining record avocado prices. In some countries, like Chile, avocado cultivation is being blamed for exacerbating droughts, as lush green orchards overlook dry riverbeds.

Perhaps the biggest reason for avocados’ rise to dominance is the emergence of the clean-eating lifestyle. No longer just a chip dip for special occasions, this superfood can be found in a plethora of recipes in cafés and restaurants everywhere around the world. And those who are eating them are really keen for you to know about it. Just type #avocado into Instagram, and you’ll be hit with over 10 million search results. But is the glorification of avocado justified?

Wallace: There’s quite a big hype around avocados, but it actually is quite justified when it comes to how nutrient-dense this food is. There’s not many foods that actually replicate it in terms of a nutritional profile. When it comes to calling something a superfood, I’m not really for that label. Avocados are definitely a good food to include in your diet, but like I said, you’re not really missing out if you don’t like them or if you can’t eat them for any reason. Monounsaturated fats, we can find that in things like olive oil and olive, nuts, and seeds. The vitamins and minerals, we can find that in other green vegetables, so spinach and broccoli and things like that. So there’s ways of getting those nutrients in without having avocado.

Narrator: All of this produce requires an astonishing amount of labor. Even once grown, pruned, and picked, avocados need costly distribution methods in order to be delivered fresh and ripe to far-flung corners of the world.

Gunderson: If you’re living in Philadelphia, right? You wanna buy a ripe avocado in Philadelphia? What they do is they ship green avocados from California to Philadelphia, they send them to the ripening center, they warm them up and get ethylene in them, so they all ripen, and then, when they’re moved out to the retail stores, you’re actually buying something that’s almost ready to eat or ready to eat. ‘Cause if you were to buy a green avocado that’s shipped straight from California to your market, you would have to ripen it yourself over a seven- to 10-day period, and most consumers are a little more anxious for their avocado toast than waiting 10 days. [laughs]

Narrator: With prices so high, the commodity of avocados has attracted a spate of thefts from orchards and delivery trucks worldwide. In New Zealand, armed night patrols and electric fences have been introduced after a grower in Northland had 70% of his orchard stolen. There’s even further grim reading for avocado lovers. In Michoacán, where 80% of Mexico’s avocados originate, cartels run a so-called “blood avocado” trade, violently enforcing a nonnegotiable extortion fee from farmers based on the size of their land and the weight of their crop.

Some restaurants have begun an avocado boycott, as we all weigh the ethics behind our eating habits. Experts suggest that water shortages could affect 5 billion people by 2050, and rainfall in the so-called drought belt, which includes Mexico and South America, is predicted to decline. But whilst evidence of environmental degradation is mounting, the avocado industry is still growing along with consumer demand. In certain places, the sustainability of avocado production will become untenable.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in October 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider