Temporary ban on avocados from Mexico could soon increase prices: NPR


A worker selects avocados at a packing plant in Uruapan, Mexico. The US Department of Agriculture has temporarily suspended the inspection of avocados in this region of Mexico after an inspector was threatened.

Armando Solis/AP


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Armando Solis/AP

Temporary ban on avocados from Mexico could soon increase prices: NPR

A worker selects avocados at a packing plant in Uruapan, Mexico. The US Department of Agriculture has temporarily suspended the inspection of avocados in this region of Mexico after an inspector was threatened.

Armando Solis/AP

After temporary ban on avocados from Mexico, experts warn prices are likely to rise and supply may be limited in the next weeks.

After a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector received a threat, the department suspended investigations of avocado crops entering the country from Mexico. According to data from the Hass Avocado Board, around 80% of US supply in 2021 came from Mexico.

“The longer this suspension is in effect, the more disruption you are likely to see,” said Tom Stenzel, co-CEO of the International Fresh Produce Association. “If it goes on for several weeks, you’ll start to see gaps.”

Stenzel said there was no way to predict how long the suspension would last, but if it lasts more than a few weeks it’s likely that lawyers will come from other countries like Peru, there won’t be so not a huge shortage.

“You’re not going to see bare shelves,” he said. “People are going to have a certain amount of avocados, there may be a shorter supply.”

In terms of price, Phil Lempert, editor of the SupermarketGuru.com website, says there is “no doubt” the cost of buying avocados in the supermarket will increase.

“They won’t have product, and the product they have, there will be opportunistic pricing,” Lempert said.

How the ban came about

On the eve of the Super Bowl on Sunday, the USDA announced that all sales of avocados from Mexico’s western Michoacan region had been suspended, after a department inspector received a verbal threat on his cellphone. Michoacan is the only state in Mexico authorized to export avocados to the United States

Fruit inspections are necessary to ensure that avocados entering the United States are free of pests, which helps protect avocado crops in states like California.

Details of the threat remain unclear. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico determined on Friday that the threat was credible and “required inspections for avocado exports from this region have been halted upon this notice,” according to the USDA.

“We need to be confident that the lives of our employees are not in danger as they work to ensure agricultural products from Mexico meet certification and export requirements that protect American producers from pests and diseases,” the USDA said in a statement to NPR.

The USDA said its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service office is working with the Mexican Embassy, ​​Mexico’s National Plant Protection Organization, and the Association of Mexican Avocado Producers and Exporters. to resolve security issues.

“The USDA hopes this situation can be resolved in a way that will ensure avocado exports resume, while the lives of the people working to put avocados on American tables are not at risk of simply doing their job of safeguarding” , the department said. .

Gang Violence Continues in Michoacan State

Security in the Michoacan region has been deteriorating for years due to violence from cartels, which profit from the economic benefits of the avocado trade.

Avocado exports, known as green gold, were worth nearly $3 billion last year, NPR’s Carrie Kahn reported. Avocado growers, packers and truckers must pay a “war tax” to the cartels in order to keep producing the crop.

And the USDA points out that it’s not just avocado growers who face these dangers.

In 2020, the USDA said one of its workers in the Citrus Pest and Disease Control Program in northern Mexico was murdered. More recently, another inspector received a threatening phone call against him and his family after refusing to certify a shipment.

The Mexican president did not comment on recent security issues in Michoacan, and instead said US groups were working together to try to put their own interests first and prevent competition.

The restaurant industry is likely to be hit harder than retailers

It is unclear when the temporary suspension will be lifted, but some US restaurant chains are already preparing for the impact this could have on their stores and sales.

Stenzel said restaurants that rely heavily on avocados on their menu could struggle more than retail.

“They just can’t afford to run out of avocados for guacamole and other parts of their main dishes. In retail, in the worst case, there are fewer lawyers, they cost more. But it’s not ultimately how it could be for a restaurant chain,” Stenzel said.

Chipotle Chief Financial Officer Jack Hartung told NPR that currently they have several weeks of inventory, but are working with suppliers.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and adjust our plans accordingly,” Hartung said.


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