Avocados from Mexico are not currently allowed on United States soil. Ironically the news comes just after the industry aired a commercial promoting the fruit on US TV’s biggest game day, the Super Bowl. According to the Associated Press, the complete suspension of avocado imports resulted after a United States safety inspector at an avocado plant in Mexico received a threatening message.
At this point, specifics as to what the threat entailed remain unknown. However, U.S. authorities did confirm that the inspection officer was directly threatened via a text message on his work phone. Whatever the message said immediately prompted the U.S. government to prohibit any avocado imports coming from the plant in the western state of Michoacán, which is the only Mexican state that currently exports avocados to the United States.
Those speculating on the matter believe that the threat could have arisen due to heavy cartel activity in the area. The Mexican Drug Cartel has a pervasive presence throughout the country, however, Michoacán is currently embroiled in a dangerous turf war between two rival cartels. Additionally, NPR detailed that this is not the first time that the United States would have had to stop avocado imports from Mexico due to drug-related activity.
In August 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture reported an incident that involved two US inspectors being threatened while in town to examine the exportable produce. The USDA made it clear that should a similar incident happen again that they would take the necessary steps to ban any avocados imports coming out of the region.
Their assertions regarding avocado imports were clearly outlined in a statement. “For future situations that result in a security breach, or demonstrate an imminent physical threat to the well-being of APHIS personnel, we will immediately suspend program activities.” Their statement was more than just precautionary. Just one year later news came that a Mexican employee on the USDA’s inspection team, Edgar Flores Santos, ended up being inadvertently killed by drug traffickers.
Even though the avocado import ban is allegedly in effect for safety reasons, it could be problematic for the Mexican avocado industry as a whole. Mexico makes approximately $3 billion in annual exports. A sizable portion of those cash grabs comes from folks buying up the fruit to make guacamole for their super bowl parties. Thankfully, the industry has already previously exported avocados that would turn a profit as a result of game-day festivities. However, it remains to be seen if the ban will have an effect on the industry’s super bowl profits next year.
Mexico’s exportation woes do not end with avocados imports. As of February 10, 2022, any fishing boats coming from Mexico were prohibited from entering United States waters. The decision to place the ban on the boats was twofold. First and foremost, Mexico had repeatedly failed to stop fishing in the protected waters of the Vaquita Marina, where a critically endangered species of porpoise lives. Second, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asserted that it was also in response to the continued illegal poaching of red snapper in the U.S. portion of gulf waters. Environment consultations are expected to begin between the US and Mexico in order to rectify the issue.