Threats against a US agricultural inspector in the Mexican state of Michoacán prompted the United States to suspend imports of avocados from its neighbor, officials said, disrupting a $2.4 billion industry during a of its busiest times of the year.
Mexico’s agriculture department said in a statement that the inspector received a threatening message on his cell phone, prompting a ban on avocado exports to the United States “until further notice.”
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) did not confirm the decision, but warned after an incident in 2019 in which a team of American inspectors were allegedly robbed by a gang at gunpoint, that new threats would lead to an immediate cessation of “program activities”. .
Michoacán is the only state in Mexico with a license to export avocados to the United States, and the Mexican Association of Producers and Packers says its members are frequent targets of violence and threats from organized criminal groups looking for protection money.
In 2020, the most recent year for which figures are available, Mexico exported nearly 965 metric tons (2.1 billion pounds) of avocados to the United States, a 7% increase over year earlier as demand for guacamole and other avocado products increased.
Mexico announced the USDA decision the day before the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, traditionally one of the biggest avocado consumption days of the year, although the products used this year were exported several weeks before. the game.
The inspector who was threatened was part of a team working for the USDA’s Department of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, according to The Associated Press. The United States lifted a three-year ban on Mexican avocados in 1997 after an inspection agreement was reached to try to keep weevils, scabs and other pests from entering orchards.