Authorities in Mexico say deforestation caused by the expansion of avocado orchards is much higher than previously thought.

The attorney general's office for environmental protection says that almost 50,000 acres (20,000 hectares) of forest land are converted to agricultural uses each year in the western state of Michoacan, the world's top producer of the fruit.

The head of the Michoacan office said Monday that between 30 percent and 40 percent of the forest-land loss is due to avocados, or 15,000 to 20,000 acres (6,000 to 8,000 hectares) annually.

Authorities began meetings last week with avocado producers to address the problem.

Avocado trees flourish at about the same altitude and climate as the pine and fir forests in the mountains of Michoacan.