A week after USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) suspended avocado imports to the United States from Mexico, the agency has announced that its inspection program has restarted and exports have resumed.
The interruption in avocado import inspections was due to alleged verbal threats that were made against a USDA inspector after he questioned a shipment. APHIS noted that the suspension would remain in place for as long as necessary to ensure the appropriate actions are taken and that inspectors feel safe. “The safety of USDA employees simply doing their jobs is of paramount importance,” the agency said in a statement released on February 11.
After a comprehensive investigation, APHIS has now allowed avocado imports from Mexico to the U.S. to resume, and notes that avocados that were inspected prior to the suspension of trade and at packing facilities would be released. USDA says that it worked with agencies in Mexico to enact more safety measures for its inspectors, though it wasn’t specific on what those exact measure were.
“The safety of our USDA inspectors is paramount,” says Robert Guenther, chief policy officer of the International Fresh Produce Association. “We are grateful that both countries have come to a resolution so that the U.S. and Mexico can continue our positive trading relationship. IFPA looks forward to continuing to work with businesses on both sides of the border and their respective governments to continue to monitor and address these issues, so consumers can continue to enjoy uninterrupted access to fresh produce.”
The Association of Avocado Exporting Producers and Packers of Mexico (APEAM), which represents 29,000 avocado farmers and 65 packing houses in Michoacán, says that an operational security plan has been implemented by the government of Michoacán. “I would like to thank the authorities of both countries for their support and commitment to reactivate the exports of the Michoacán avocado to the United States in order to avoid, to the extent possible, the impact on supply,” adds Armando López Orduña, director general of APEAM.
In 2021, the United States imported 1.2 million metric tons of avocados; 89% of them came from Michoacán, the only state in Mexico certified pest free and able to export to the U.S.