U.S. Stops Some Avocado Shipments From Mexico Owing to Security Concerns

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A US Department of Agriculture (USDA) official announced that the US stopped safety checks for avocados and mangos from the Mexican state of Michoacán because of a security issue involving USDA employees.

According to the spokeswoman, mangos and avocados already en route from Michoacán will not be impacted, but additional inspections have been put on hold “until further notice.”

United States Agriculture Department to Halt Avocado Inspections:

Concerns over the safety of agency employees led to the decision, which, should the inspections not be restarted, may eventually impact avocado shipments into the United States.

The United States Agriculture Department has suspended its inspections of avocados and mangos imported from Mexico “until further notice” due to security concerns for agency staff, the U.S.D.A. announced on Monday.

The decision has no bearing on produce already approved for export; nevertheless, if the inspections are not continued, avocado supply to the United States—most of which comes from the Mexican state of Michoacán—may ultimately be impacted.

According to an email from a U.S.D.A. official, the inspections “will be suspended until the security issue is examined and appropriate procedures and protections are put in place.”

The agency remained silent on the reason behind the security worries. However, news sources in Mexico recently revealed that two U.S.D.A. inspectors had been unlawfully held at a community-run checkpoint. Certain Indigenous villages in Michoacán, which runs from the highlands west of Mexico City to the Pacific Ocean, have established security patrols to protect themselves against gang activity.

On Monday, the US Embassy in Mexico verified that the inspectors were released from custody.

The head of Mexico’s organization of avocado farmers and packers, or APEAM, Julio Sahagún Calderón, stated in a statement that “the interruption of avocado exports from Michoacán was due to an incident unrelated to the avocado industry.” He continued by saying that the team was collaborating “heavily” with Mexican and American authorities to bring back the inspection of Michoacán avocados.

U.S. safety inspectors have already encountered security problems in Michoacán, where locals are entangled in a violent territorial battle between rival drug gangs.

In 2022, a verbal threat was made to a safety inspector, leading the United States to ban avocado imports from Mexico temporarily. The embargo was removed after Mexico implemented additional safety precautions for U.S.D.A. inspectors.

Apart from battling it out over drugs, the cartels have also tried to get a foothold in the legitimate economy. This is especially true in the lucrative avocado sector, which has been helped by Americans’ insatiable hunger for the creamy fruit.

Avocado orchards that export their products to the United States and the packing companies that handle them must be approved by U.S.DA inspectors and Mexican authorities.

According to a U.S.D.A. official, the department is dedicated to starting inspections “as swiftly as possible.” The ban, he claimed, “does not affect avocados and mangos in transit, as they have previously completed the inspection process.”

Avocados are so profitable and popular that they are causing environmental problems in Mexico. Avocado orchards are sprouting up in protected regions meant to be off-limits to loggers and farmers alike. Aquifer depletion and the loss of forests are the results of this.

According to research released by Climate Rights International, a nonprofit organization that documents the effects of climate change on human rights, as of March 2023, more than 50,000 avocado farms in Michoacán, Mexico, and the United States have been approved for export.

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