The U.S. Government Has Suspended Avocado Imports from Mexico
The suspension is in effect "until further notice" amidst safety concerns.
UPDATE: The temporary ban has been lifted as of Februrary 18, 2022.
The U.S. government is suspending all avocado imports from Mexico.
Mexico confirmed the “surprise, temporary suspension” late Saturday night, the Associated Press reports — yes, less than 24 hours before many Americans plunked down with a big bowl of guacamole and chips to watch the big game, punctuated by a commercial for Avocados from Mexico. (Game-day supplies, which had already shipped, were not yet affected.)
The reason for the suspension, which Mexico’s Agriculture Department said was in effect “until further notice:” a threatening message sent to a U.S. plant safety inspector in Mexico.
“U.S. health authorities ... made the decision after one of their officials, who was carrying out inspections in Uruapan, Michoacan, received a threatening message on his official cellphone,” the department wrote in a statement cited by the AP.
Drug cartel turf conflicts, violence and avocado-grower extortion have been threatening Michoacan’s lucrative avocado crop. The western state is the only one that has full authorization to export avocados to the U.S.
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services inspectors routinely work to ensure avocado crops imported from Mexico don’t carry diseases that could damage U.S. avocado crops, the AP reports. In fact, avocado imports from Mexico have been allowed only since 1997; before that, beginning in 1914, they were banned in order to guard against a variety of potentially crop-damaging pests.
In August 2019, an incident in which a U.S. Department of Agriculture team of inspectors in another area of Mexico were threatened and robbed at gunpoint prompted the USDA to warn that attacking or threatening its inspectors would result in the immediate suspension of APHIS “program activities,” the AP reports. And in September 2020, a Mexican APHIS employee was killed near Tijuana.
Michoacan avocado growers and their families are also often threatened unless they pay “protection money.”
“Facilitating the export of Mexican avocados to [the U.S.] and ensuring the safety of our agricultural inspection teams go hand in hand,” the U.S. Embassy in Mexico tweeted Sunday (according to a Google Spanish-to-English translation). “We are working with [the Mexican government] to guarantee security conditions that allow our personnel in Michoacan to resume operations.”