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US Inspections of Michoacán Avocados and Mangoes to Resume Gradually

-Editorial

In a significant development for the avocado industry, U.S. government inspections of avocados and mangoes in the Mexican state of Michoacán will gradually resume, U.S. Ambassador Ken Salazar announced on June 21. This decision comes a week after inspections were suspended following an assault on USDA inspectors. Salazar stated that inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture “will gradually begin to return to the packing plants following recent aggression against them.” However, he emphasized the need for enhanced security measures to ensure the safety of the inspectors before full operations can be restored.

The suspension of inspections disrupted the export of avocados from Michoacán, Mexico’s largest avocado-producing state, to the United States. While the neighboring state of Jalisco continued its exports without interruption, the market saw a tightening of supply due to the halted inspections. The mango industry experienced minimal impact as the harvest in Michoacán is nearing its end and shifting to other regions. The incident that led to the suspension involved two USDA employees who were detained by assailants. According to Michoacán Governor Alfredo Ramírez Bedolla, the inspectors were stopped by protesting residents in Aranza on June 14. Bedolla downplayed the threat, asserting that the inspectors were not in danger and that state forces were now providing security for avocado producers and packers.

Many avocado growers in Michoacán face extortion from drug gangs, who threaten them with kidnapping or death unless protection money is paid. This ongoing violence adds to the complexity of ensuring safe and consistent agricultural inspections in the region. In February 2022, inspections were also suspended after a U.S. plant safety inspector received a threatening message. The halt, which lasted about a week, underscored the ongoing security challenges.

Subsequently, Jalisco became the second Mexican state authorized to export avocados to the U.S., providing some diversification in the supply chain. To comply with U.S. regulations, imported avocados must meet specific grade and maturity requirements. Inspections are mandatory for shipments exceeding 55 pounds, and the costs are borne by the applicant. These regulations aim to prevent the spread of diseases that could harm U.S. crops.

Avocado production is vital to Mexico’s economy, as the country is the world’s largest producer of the crop, supplying 45 percent of the international avocado market. Among the 57 avocado-producing countries, the other major producers are Colombia, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and Kenya, in that order.

Mexican avocado production is concentrated in Michoacán state in west-central Mexico. Accounting for 92% of the country’s avocado production, Michoacán leads the world in avocado production, covering approximately 106,000 hectares (260,000 acres). The yield from Michoacán is 4 metric tons per hectare (1.6 long ton/acre; 1.8 short ton/acre) and can reach up to 8 metric tons per hectare (3.2 long ton/acre; 3.6 short ton/acre), much higher than comparable figures in the U.S. state of California

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