U.S. suspends Mexican avocado imports on eve of Super Bowl
Mexico acknowledged that all Mexican avocado imports were suspended by the U.S. after an American plant safety inspector was threatened in Mexico.
The surprise, temporary suspension was confirmed late Saturday on the eve of the Super Bowl, the biggest sales opportunity of the year for Mexican avocado growers — though it would not affect game-day consumption since those avocados had already been shipped.
Avocado exports have been the latest victim to drug cartel turf fights and extortion by avocado growers from the western state Michoacan. This is the only Mexican state fully licensed to export to the U.S.
After a U.S. plant safety inspection in Mexico sent a threat message to Mexico, the U.S. government has suspended imports from Mexico of avocados.
The department stated that the U.S. health officials made the decision “after one of their officials was conducting inspections in Uruapan (Michoacan) received a threatening text message on his cellphone.”
The ad for this year shows Julius Caesar with a group of rough gladiator lovers outside the Colosseum. They are enjoying avocados and guacamole to soothe their seemingly violent differences.
The association didn’t immediately reply to my request for comment about the ban. This affects an industry worth almost $3 billion annually in exports. However, the avocados used in this year’s Super Bowl were already exported weeks before the event.
According to U.S. Embassy, “facilitating exports of Mexican avocados into the U.S.A and ensuring the safety of our agricultural inspector personnel go hand-in-hand.”
The embassy stated in a social media post that it was working with Mexico to ensure security conditions to allow its personnel to return to work in Michoacan.
The United States grows avocados. Therefore, U.S. inspectors visit Mexico to make sure that avocados exported from the United States don’t have diseases that can harm U.S. crops.
Only in 1997 did the U.S. lift a ban on Mexican avocados. This had been in effect since 1914 and was meant to keep pests, weevils and other insects out of American orchards.
They work in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services.
It is not the first time that the violence in Michoacan — where the Jalisco cartel is fighting turf wars against a collection of local gangs known as the United Cartels — has threatened avocados, the state’s most lucrative crop.
Following a similar incident in 2019, USDA has warned about possible consequences for attacking or threatening U.S. Inspectors.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors were “directly threatened” by a Ziracuaretiro town, just west of Uruapan in August 2019. Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture didn’t give any details, authorities in the area claim that a gang stole the truck at gunpoint from the inspectors.
In a subsequent letter, the USDA stated that “For future security breaches or imminent threats to APHIS personnel’s well-being, we will immediately suspend all program activities.”
Avocado growers in Michoacan claim that drug gangs are threatening them and their families with death or kidnapping if they don’t pay money for protection, which can sometimes be thousands of dollars an acre.
APHIS’s Mexican staff member was murdered near Tijuana, Mexico on September 30, 2020.
Mexican authorities claimed Edgar Flores Santos, a drug trafficker who might have misunderstood him as a police officer, was murdered. A suspect was also arrested. According to the U.S. State Department, investigations concluded that Mr. Flores was in an unfortunate situation and had been there at the wrong moment.
Mexico’s latest export threat was not the avocado ban, but the inability of the government to curb illegal activities.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office brought an environmental complaint against Mexico on Thursday for not stopping illegal fishing to save the vaquita marina (the world’s smallest porpoise)
It stated that it asked for environmental consultations with Mexico. This was the first instance it filed under the U.S. – Mexico-Canada free trade pact. These consultations are the first stage in the dispute settlement process for the trade accord, which came into effect in 2020. It can lead to trade sanction if the dispute isn’t resolved.
Mexico’s government is largely abandoning attempts to create a fishing ban in an area of the Gulf of California known as “The Sea of Cortez”, where some vaquitas may still be found. Vastas drowned when nets were set up illegally to catch another fish, the Totoaba.
On Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that Mexican fishing vessels in the Gulf of Mexico would be “prohibited” from accessing U.S. ports. This was in response to the illegal poaching of red snapper by Mexican boats for years in U.S. Gulf waters.