U.S. suspends Mexican avocado imports on the eve of the Super Bowl


Mexico City — Mexico has admitted that the US government has stopped importing all Mexican avocados after a threat to a US factory safety inspector in Mexico.

The surprise suspension was confirmed at the end of Saturday on the eve of the Super Bowl, the biggest selling opportunity for Mexican avocado producers this year. However, these avocados have already been shipped and will not affect match day consumption.

Avocado exports are the latest victims of the drug cartel turf battle and the blackmail of avocado growers in the western state of Michoacan, the only state in Mexico that is fully licensed to export to the US market.

The Mexican Agricultural Department said in a statement that the U.S. government had suspended all imports of Mexican avocado “until further notice” after a threatening message was received by a U.S. factory safety inspector in Mexico. ..

“U.S. health officials … made the decision after one of the officials conducting the test in Uruapan, Michoacan, received a threatening message on his official mobile phone,” the agency wrote.

The import ban came on the day the Mexican Avocado Producers and Packers Association announced this year’s Super Bowl ad. Mexican exporters have been advertising expensive for almost a decade to associate guacamole as a tradition in the Super Bowl.

This year’s ad shows Julius Caesar and a rough gladiator fan outside what looks like the Colosseum, enjoying guacamole and avocado and mitigating the apparently violent difference.

The association did not immediately respond to a request for comment on a ban that would hurt an industry with annual exports of about $ 3 billion. However, this year’s Super Bowl avocado had already been exported weeks before the event.

Because the United States also grows avocados, US inspectors work in Mexico to prevent exported avocados from carrying diseases that could damage US crops.

It was in 1997 that the United States lifted the Mexican avocado ban, which had been in place since 1914, to prevent various weevil, scab, and pests from invading US orchards.

Inspectors work at the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

This is not the first time that the violence in Michoacan, where the Jalisco New Generation Cartel is fighting a lawn war with a group of local gangsters known as the United Cartel, has threatened the state’s most lucrative crop, the avocado.

After the last incident in 2019, USDA warned of possible consequences of attacking or intimidating US inspectors.

In August 2019, a team of USDA inspectors were “directly threatened” in the town of Giracaletiro, just west of Uruapan. Authorities did not identify what had happened, but local officials say the gang robbed the truck on which the inspector was moving with a gun.

In a letter at the time, the USDA wrote, “We will immediately suspend program activities in case of future situations that could lead to security breaches or indicate an imminent physical threat to the well-being of APHIS personnel.”

Many avocado growers in Michoacan say they and their families are threatened with kidnapping and death unless drug gangs pay protection.

On September 30, 2020, a Mexican employee of APHIS was killed near the northern border city of Tijuana.

Mexican prosecutors said Edgar Flores Santos was killed by a drug trafficker who could have mistaken him for a police officer and the suspect was arrested. The US State Department said the investigation “concluded that this unfortunate case was that Mr Flores was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The avocado ban was the latest threat to Mexico’s export trade due to the government’s inability to curb illegal activities.

On Thursday, the U.S. Trade Representative filed an environmental complaint against Mexico for not stopping illegal fishing to protect the endangered vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise. I did.

The office said it had requested an “environmental consultation” with Mexico. This is the first such proceeding filed under the US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement. Consultations are the first step in the dispute resolution process under a trade agreement that came into force in 2020. If not resolved, it can ultimately lead to trade sanctions.

The Mexican government has almost abandoned attempts to force fishing bans around areas where the last few vaquitas are believed to inhabit the Gulf of California (also known as the Cortez Sea). A net was illegally set up for another fish, Totoaba, and drowned Bakitas.

And on Monday, a Mexican fishing vessel in the Gulf of Mexico was “banned from entering a U.S. port and denied access and service to the port,” the U.S. Marine and Atmospheric Administration said in the United States for years in Mexico. He said in response to the ship illegally poaching the red sea bream. Gulf waters.

Mark Stevenson

Associated Press

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