The United States is halting all avocado imports from Mexico after a safety inspector was threatened. Mexico’s Agriculture Ministry confirmed the decision in a statement, saying that a USDA safety inspector received a threat on their personal cell phone while inspecting a plant in Uruapan, Michoacan.
U.S. inspectors routinely check production facilities in Michoacan, which is the only state in Mexico allowed to ship avocados to the United States, to ensure they don’t carry diseases or other bacteria that could be harmful to plants and people.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said it is investigating the threat and is working with local authorities to ensure the safety of all safety inspectors in Mexico.
Officials have also met with the Association of Avocado Exporting Producers and Packers of Mexico (APEAM) to discuss the issue of ongoing threats made by local drug cartels. The cartels have threatened safety inspectors in the past and routinely demand local farmers pay them protection money.
“The APEAM is actively participating in coordination with the authorities of both countries to resolve the problem in order to reinforce internal practices and processes that guarantee the traceability of the fruit. The facts mentioned here have already impacted the economy of the entire program, affecting the industry and the more than 300,000 jobs that depend on it. We encourage all those actors in this value chain to take extreme care and vigilance to preserve such an important export program,” the trade group said in a statement.
In 2020, Mexico exported over $2.4 billion worth of avocados to the United States.