U.S. Temporarily Bans Avocados From Mexico, Citing Threat

Some people eat it on toast, on salad, or on a burrito, and it has become an essential part of their diets.

However, it’s possible that the creamy fruit will be harder to come by in the future. After a verbal threat was made against U.S. safety inspectors in Mexico, the United States decided late last week to temporarily block all avocado imports.

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials say the suspension will remain in place “for as long as necessary,” referring to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, “to ensure the appropriate actions are taken, to secure the safety of APHIS personnel working in Mexico.”

Even a two-week ban on the importation of avocados from Mexico, which accounts for 80 percent of the avocados consumed in the United States, could have a significant impact on the availability of avocados and increase prices, according to analysts.

The decision is bad news for Michoacan, Mexico’s only avocado-producing region, as it will no longer be able to export avocados to the United States. There, the green fruit industry is worth nearly $3 billion a year in exports. In the United States, the vast majority of those avocados are sold.

There were no public details about threats to agency employees, but drug cartels in the region have been interested in the avocado industry for a few years now as they have become more fragmented and are looking to diversify their illicit income streams.

Mexico analyst Falko Ernst with the non-profit International Crisis Group recalls having an interview with an organised crime leader 10 years ago who boasted about how much money he was making from avocados. In the region, there is a high concentration of economic wealth, which has acted as a magnet for these groups.

Lime production and shipments have also been said to have been restricted by Mexican gangs in order to raise prices.

Mexico’s avocado exporters’ association, which represents 29,000 farmers and 65 packing houses, said its board of directors held a meeting to review security plans and protocols in an effort to continue working with Mexican and U.S. authorities to get avocado exports back on track.

The ban was announced just in time for the Super Bowl, one of avocado’s biggest events. Depending on how long it lasts, the avocado industry’s Cinco de Mayo celebration could also be affected.

Mexican avocados were banned in the United States in 1997 after weevils, scabs, and other pesticide-resistant organisms were brought into the country by imported avocado products.

The expansion of Mexico’s avocado market is being facilitated by U.S. inspectors in Mexico, who monitor every step of the process, from the orchards to the transportation systems to the shipping areas, to ensure that the fruit imported to the United States is free of pests.

According to Mr. Orden, “this was a nice story about how a group of agricultural businessmen and farmers used scientific methods to reduce pest risk and allow trade to occur where there would normally be an opportunity. “Until the drug cartels got involved, it was a nice story.”

There is simply not enough avocados being grown in California to keep up with the demand for chips, guacamole, and smoothies from avocado-loving Americans. Avocado consumption has increased from four pounds per person in 2010 to nine pounds today and could reach 11 pounds in the next five years, according to analysts at RaboResearch..

Smart marketing campaigns have helped the avocado industry for quite some time. There were ads from the California Avocado Commission in the 1980s showing actress Angie Dickinson eating an avocado and extolling its virtues as a healthy food. Is this body going to tell the truth to you?” she asked.

However, the Super Bowl provided a significant marketing opportunity. This past decade, Avocados From Mexico began airing wacky commercials like Jon Lovitz’s floating head and Molly Ringwald as an infomercial host hawking avocado-related accessories, like a personal carrier and a yurt.

The Avocados from Mexico ad aired during the game on Sunday, the same weekend as the import ban took effect. The Coliseum was transformed into a guacamole-eating, salsa-dancing tailgate party for ancient Romans. Online feedback was mixed.

Local avocado growers in Michoacan have warned that even a short-term ban could have a significant negative impact on the region.

Solorzano Mendoza, a third-generation avocado grower who has created a digital platform for producers to share pricing information, says that if the growing season ends in May and we lose a couple of months to sell, we’ll have too much fruit to sell in two months’ time. “After May, the harvest will be worthless, and the trees will be stripped of their fruit.”

According to him, a drop in prices could lead to an increase in the number of people fleeing to the United States from the region. Avocados have brought some people to the area, he claimed. As a result of this, they can support themselves. They’ll leave if we don’t have avocados.”

If the “warning shot” of a temporary ban turns into something more long-term, Mr. Ernst of the International Crisis Group says it will affect the economy and also make it easier for criminal organisations to attract new recruits.

Many law-abiding families rely on the marijuana industry, according to Mr. Ernst. Taking away their livelihoods puts them in the hands of criminal organisations.