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Avocado imports from Mexico on hold

Mexico says U.S. suspends imports over threat
Posted at 7:53 PM, Feb 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-14 21:53:05-05

NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN) — If you love avocados you will not love this. Mexico says the U.S. Department of Agriculture has stopped avocado imports from Mexico—because someone threatened a U.S. produce inspector.

Avocados are very popular—anyone still eating Super Bowl guacamole can attest to that. But just before the game the U.S. Department of Agriculture shut down avocado shipments from Mexico.

The U.S.D.A. stations inspectors in Mexico to make sure avocados do not have pests or plant disease before they come into the United States. But the Agriculture Department says an inspector got a threatening phone call so it shut down those inspections until it can be sure the inspectors are safe.

Jaime Chamberlain is a major produce importer and also chair of the Nogales/Santa Cruz Port Authority. He says Mexico and the U.S. are working to fix the issue fast. He says avocados are just a small fraction of Nogales produce business but they’re hoping to handle more of them once another section of Mexico is approved for avocado exports.

“We're always looking for new commodities to come through here. Technically. I mean, typically we have bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, squashes that all come through the Nogales port of entry and we've had very few of the berries and the more the Exotic Items, the papayas the avocados those items typically go through the Texas ports of entry.”

Lance Jungmeyer of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas says he does not know exactly what the threat was or who it was from, but he says when avocados became very popular, criminals decided they wanted a slice of the action.

“Avocados are one of the most lucrative crops in Mexico. And we've seen, unfortunately, that there has been some cartel activity linked to them.“

Jungmeyer also says avocados are a relatively small part of Nogales business but it’s business that’s up 22 percent in the past year. And port boosters are working to convince growers to send more through the Nogales port.