From our Oke USA Team:
Fact: 120 million pounds of avocados are expected to be sold in the United States in the days leading up to the Super Bowl.
That’s about 5 million cases.
At Equal Exchange, we’re busy filling Super Bowl orders with our customers, but we’re also asking ourselves how our work importing Mexican avocados relates to issues illustrated in the LA Times piece about the Mexican produce industry. Reporter Richard Marosi traveled across nine Mexican states over 18 months, meeting with workers at the giant farms that export much of the produce sold in the United States. The result was a four-part series released in December that exposed the hardships that Mexican laborers endure, including poor living conditions and work without pay.
Many people have responded to the article, calling for reforms to current trade policies and practices. As we reflect on our broken food system, we want to push the conversation beyond calls for reform. Instead of just reforming the existing policies and practices, we want to talk about what it would look like to truly transform the way Mexican produce is grown and exported to the United States.
What do we mean when we talk about building a transformative trade model? Reform means taking what already exists, and then tweaking it. It means making amendments and revisions until it is better. But when we transform something, we start from scratch, moving beyond what has worked in the past and completely reconstructing the system. Reform is easier, safer, and faster;transformation is harder, riskier, and happens over time.
This post is the first of a three-part series that digs deeper into this topic. Over the next few days, we’ll highlight our ideas for a transformative trade model and the role that our distributors, stores, and customers play in making this vision a reality.
At Equal Exchange, our work partnering with PRAGOR, distributors, and stores to build a more just and sustainable avocado supply chain has been incredibly challenging. For the past year, we have all taken tremendous risks, and while our first season felt successful in many ways, we are still slowly figuring out how to make this a sustainable program for all stakeholders.
In the grand scheme of things, our impact is small. PRAGOR represents just 18 farmers. We import small volumes of avocados for only a portion of the year. We sell these avocados to small stores. Our supply chain isn’t perfect.
But the basic ideas behind this model are big ideas, and they are our radical ideas for what our food system should- and can- look like. At Equal Exchange, we believe that a truly transformative model includes:
1. Farmers owning their own land.
2. Small-scale farmers having access to the global marketplace.
3. Having the real cost of food reflected in consumer prices.
4. Connecting consumers with producers around transparent supply chains.
Interested in learning more about these values and how they’re reflected in our partnership with PRAGOR? Click here.