U.S. Suspends Mexico Avocado Shipments

Crates of avocados during a harvest in Periban, Michoacan state, Mexico, on Feb. 21, 2022. Credit - Bloomberg

The U.S. suspended some new avocado shipments from Mexico after an incident that reportedly threatened the safety of American agricultural inspectors.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture notified the Avocado Exporting Producers and Packers of Mexico (APEAM) of the decision to halt new exports out of Michoacan late on June 14, according to a notice from the trade group seen by Bloomberg News. While the statement didn’t describe the incident, local press reports say two inspectors were held against their will and attacked amid a protest over police pay. The USDA informed the trade group that no activity related to fruit shipments would take place, the notice said.

In an email statement, a USDA spokesperson said that it has paused inspections of avocados and mangoes in the region until further notice due to security concerns for its personnel in Michoacan. The programs will remain on pause until the security situation is reviewed and safeguards are in place for the personnel.

Mexican exports are not blocked, the USDA spokesperson said, though the move would stop the import of any non-inspected shipments. Avocados and mangoes already in transit won’t be affected, the spokesperson said.

APEAM President Julio Sahagun Calderon said in a Monday statement that the group is working “intensely and in close collaboration” with government authorities nationally and internationally to restart the export of avocados from Michoacan to the U.S. The incident that led to the pause was “outside of the sector’s control,” he added.

Avocado exports from Jalisco have not been affected and are operating normally, Sahagun said in the statement.

U.S. Ambassador Ken Salazar will meet next week with Michoacan state Governor Alfredo Ramirez Bedolla and export representatives to address security in the region, according to a Tuesday statement.

The suspension is the second by the U.S on Mexican avocados in the past 2 1/2 years, temporarily cutting off Americans’ primary supply of the popular fruit. Mexico exports the vast majority of its avocados to the U.S.

Mexican officials have struggled to maintain secure conditions in Michoacan state, the biggest producer of avocados in the country, where gang violence and extortion are rampant. A ban in February 2022, triggered by a threat against an inspector, lasted a week while the Michoacan government implemented a security plan.

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