The Mexican government has acknowledged that the Biden administration has suspended the importation of Mexican avocados into the United States after a U.S. plant safety worker allegedly was threatened.
The Associated Press reported that the suspension was on “all imports of Mexican avocados,” which comes as Mexican avocado growers just wrapped up their biggest sales opportunity of the year — the Super Bowl.
“Avocado exports are the latest victim of the drug cartel turf battles and extortion of avocado growers in the western state of Michoacan, the only state in Mexico fully authorized to export to the U.S. market,” the AP reported. “The import ban came on the day that the Mexican avocado growers and packers association unveiled its Super Bowl ad for this year. Mexican exporters have taken out the pricey ads for almost a decade in a bid to associate guacamole as a Super Bowl tradition.”
Mexico’s Agriculture Department acknowledged that the Biden administration suspended all imports of avocados “until further notice.”
“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 said.
“Facilitating the export of Mexican avocados to 🇺🇸 and ensuring the safety of our agricultural inspection teams go hand in hand,” the U.S. Embassy wrote on Twitter. “We are working with @GobiernoMX to guarantee security conditions that allow our personnel in #Michoacán to resume operations.”
Facilitar la exportación de aguacates mexicanos a 🇺🇸 y garantizar la seguridad de nuestros equipos de inspección agrícola van de la mano. Estamos trabajando con @GobiernoMX para garantizar condiciones de seguridad que permitan a nuestro personal en #Michoacán reanudar operaciones
— Embajada EU en Mex (@USEmbassyMEX) February 14, 2022
U.S. inspectors in Mexico monitor the avocados to make sure that they do not carry diseases that could damage U.S. crops or hurt U.S. citizens.
“It was only in 1997 that the U.S. lifted a ban on Mexican avocados that had been in place since 1914 to prevent a range of weevils, scabs and pests from entering U.S. orchards,” the report added. “The inspectors work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services.”
Avocados are known as “green gold” in Mexico, which is the largest producer of the fruit, where drug cartels are looking to takeover as much of this multibillion dollar industry as possible.
“Authorities in the Michoacán state, which grows avocados exported to the United States, have identified at least nine drug cartels there, including the brutal Jalisco New Generation Cartel, or CJNG,” The Courier Journal reported. “And those cartels are eager to get a piece of avocado profits — extorting farmers with the threat of violence. In response, armed civilians calling themselves ‘self-defense groups’ have sprung up at checkpoints and barricades to protect crops and communities, risking death guarding the land from cartels.”
Experts say that the industry backs these efforts to guard the crops, but Mexico’s leftist president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, opposes them.
“Self-defense groups shouldn’t exist because the security function belongs to the state,” López Obrador said at a news conference last June. “I don’t support people taking arms to face crime because it doesn’t have good results and sometimes criminals infiltrate in those groups.”
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