Avocado Imports to Resume After Mexico Assures U.S. Inspectors Will Be Safe

The United States government announced Friday it has lifted last week's ban on Mexican avocado inspections after working with Mexico's government to make sure American inspectors are safe.

The inspections temporarily stopped last week after a U.S. inspector and his family were threatened in a phone call in Michoacán, the Associated Press reported. While the ban only lasted for a week, it had a strong negative impact on the western Mexican state's avocado farmers, with some asking people for money on the streets.

Ken Salazar, a U.S. ambassador to Mexico, said in a statement the inspections and imports can continue now that the two governments agreed "to enact the measures that ensure the safety" of the inspectors. He did not specify what these measures entail.

Michoacán is the only Mexican state that is allowed to export avocados to the U.S. because it is the only one certified as pest-free in its farming, according to the AP. As a result, some growers try to pass off avocados as being from Michoacán when they are not. In its report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the inspector was threatened because he had "questioned the integrity of a certain shipment, and refused to certify it based on concrete issues."

American per capita consumption of avocados tripled between 2001 and 2018, sitting at eight pounds per person that year, according to the AP.Last year, the U.S. imported $3 billion worth of avocados, with $2.8 billion—or 92 percent—of that sum coming specifically from Mexico, according to Farm Journal, Inc.

The avocado business has also had an impact on drug cartel turf wars. Newsweek previously reported cartels value Michoacán because of its smuggling routes and the fact that they can extort the area's lime and avocado growers.

One of the main cartels looking to control the region is Jalisco New Generation, which the U.S. Department of Justice called "one of the five most dangerous transnational criminal organizations in the world." In 2017, it was revealed cartels had been using government databases to aid in their extortion of avocado farmers for decades.

In a statement, the USDA said its employees' safety is "of paramount importance."

"USDA is appreciative of the positive, collaborative relationship between the United States and Mexico that made resolution of this issue possible in a timely manner," it said.

Update 02/18/22 5:35 p.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information.

avocados, Mexico
The United States has lifted last week's ban on Mexican avocado inspections. Above, Mexican avocados are seen for sale at a market in Mexico City. Photo by Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images