Superfoods and the environment – Avocados and blueberries from South America | DW Documentary

Superfood fruits – good for us, but bad for the environment? Growing avocados and blueberries requires a lot of water; and because they’re usually transported to Germany from other continents, that also leaves a large carbon footprint.

Avocados and blueberries are marketed as superfoods in Europe. Nutrient-rich fruits bursting with health benefits. But in Chile, avocado farming is already causing massive water shortages; blueberry farms in Peru are currently undergoing huge expansion. The journalist Matthias Ebert went to Peru and Chile to research the environmental and human cost of the superfood industry.

Smallholders in the Chilean province of Petorca have been growing avocados for many years. But a sharp increase in demand for the fruit in Europe and the US in the 1990s triggered a production surge. Since then, the avocado market has been dominated by big landowners – and is consuming huge volumes of water. One kilo, or three avocados, requires 1,000 liters of water, many times more than what’s needed to grow tomatoes or oranges. Water activist Rodrigo Mundaca has been on the frontline of this battle for years and is now one of the region’s most important politicians. He’s made it his mission to reform Chile’s water legislation.

Just like avocados in Chile, Peruvian blueberries have also experienced a boom in recent years. The sweet fruits are grown in black plastic sacks on the arid desert soil and exported to Germany, primarily in the months of November and December. Peru hasn’t yet been hit by water shortages, but producers plan to expand cultivation on a massive scale, requiring larger and larger amounts of water, which they’d very much like to divert from the Andes to the desert-like blueberry farms. Avocados and blueberries from South America – superfood or climate killer?

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