US lifts prohibition on Mexico avocado imports: USDA

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The US lifted a ban on imports of Mexican avocados, with exports to resume starting February 21, ending a week-long suspension triggered by a threat against a food inspector that halted America’s primary supply of the produce.

The resolution includes the immediate implementation of an operational security plan by the Michoacan government, according to an industry group press release Friday.

“This is definitely good news -- for consumers, for supermarkets, for the industry as a whole,” said David Magana, senior analyst for Rabobank International in Fresno, California.

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Because of the quick resolution, “likely many consumers didn’t see a big price change or even realize that avocados were not being imported from Mexico.”

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service resumed checks of avocados in Mexico’s coastal Michoacan region, the only area in the country from which the US accepts imports, after Mexican authorities and an avocado growers group provided additional safety measures for inspectors, the agency said in a statement Friday.

“The safety of USDA employees simply doing their jobs is of paramount importance,” the agency said. “USDA is appreciative of the positive, collaborative relationship between the United States and Mexico that made resolution of this issue possible in a timely manner.”

The import halt began February 11 after a US embassy security official judged a threat made against a USDA employee credible.

According to APHIS, a US inspector raised concerns about an avocado shipment and refused certification. The inspector’s supervisor was subsequently threatened, along with the supervisor’s family.

In 2020, a USDA employee was killed in Northern Mexico while conducting fruit fly and citrus-pest detection and eradication activities.

The import shutdown crippled an industry critical to the violence-plagued state of Michoacan, which supplies 80 percent of US avocados. The USDA inspection halt prevented exports to the US, though USDA allowed imports to continue for produce that had already passed review. Prices in Chicago surged 59 percent during the ban, according to agency data.

Around 20,000 tons of avocados worth about $50 million that would normally have been exported since the Feb. 11 suspension are still hanging on trees, one grower in Michoacan estimated.

“On behalf of the entire industry, I would like to thank the authorities of both countries for their support and commitment to reactivate the exports of the Michoacan avocado to the United States in order to avoid, to the extent possible, the impact on supply,” said Armando López Orduña, the director general of The Association of Avocado Exporting Producers and Packers of Mexico (APEAM).

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