Suspension lifted as Mexico takes measures to ensure safety of U.S. inspectors
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL // FEB. 18, 2022
The U.S. resumed inspections and imports of Mexican avocados that were suspended a week ago after an U.S. inspector in the principal producing state of Michoacán received a threatening phone call.
The Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said Friday that inspections have restarted and exports resumed with Mexico taking measures to enhance the safety of its inspectors in Michoacán.
“The safety of USDA employees simply doing their jobs is of paramount importance,” Aphis said.
Inspections were suspended on Feb. 11 after an Aphis inspector in the city of Uruapan received a verbal threat. The content of the threat wasn’t divulged.
Michoacán is the only Mexican state certified to export avocados to the U.S., but its avocado growing regions are also battlegrounds for drug cartels, with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and a number of local allies fighting over territory with a half-dozen or more local gangs.
Gangs in the state have long been in the business of extorting avocado producers.
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar said that state and federal authorities in Mexico, as well as avocado producers and exporters, worked with security personnel from the embassy on measures to ensure inspectors’ safety.
The Association of Avocado Exporting Producers and Packers of Mexico, which represents more than 30,000 mostly small producers and 74 export packers, said the proposal includes the creation of an intelligence and security unit within the association and a plan by the Michoacán state government to strengthen security protocols.
Mr. Salazar said food and agricultural trade between the two countries reached $65 billion last year, including $2.8 billion in Mexican avocado exports to the U.S.
“Mexico and the United States will continue working together to fortify the strong bilateral supply chains that promote economic growth and prosperity in both our countries,” he said.
The suspension came on Super Bowl weekend, a time when U.S. demand for Mexican avocados is particularly high as Americans eat more guacamole than at any other time of the year. Mexico exported 135,000 metric tons of the fruit to the U.S. in the preceding six weeks, according to the Mexican agriculture ministry.
Aphis said Mexico accounted for 1.1 million of the 1.2 million metric tons of avocados imported into the U.S. in 2021, adding that Mexico’s peak growing season runs from January through March while the U.S. production season is from April to September.
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