Home News USDA suspends Mexican avocado inspections over safety concerns

USDA suspends Mexican avocado inspections over safety concerns

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday it has suspended inspections of avocados and mangoes imported from Mexico “until further notice” out of concern for the safety of agency workers.

Agricultural products already approved for export will not be affected by the decision, but the U.S. supply of avocados, primarily from the Mexican state of Michoacan, could eventually be affected if inspections are not resumed.

Inspections “will be suspended until the safety situation is reviewed and protocols and safeguards are in place,” a USDA spokesperson said in an email.

The agency did not say what had prompted the safety concerns. But Mexican news media reported Reported Two U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors were illegally detained at a checkpoint run by community members. In Michoacan state, which stretches from the mountains west of Mexico City to the Pacific Ocean, some indigenous communities have set up security patrols to protect themselves from criminal groups.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico confirmed on Monday that the inspectors were no longer detained.

“The interruption of avocado exports from Michoacan is due to events unrelated to the avocado sector,” Julio Sahagún Calderón, president of the Mexican Association of Avocado Producers and Packers (APEAM), said in a statement. He added that the organization is “working closely” with Mexican and U.S. authorities to resume inspections of avocados from Michoacan.

“Without inspections, there can be no exports,” said Lupita Mirón, a spokeswoman for APEAM.

This is not the first time U.S. security inspectors have faced security threats in Michoacan, where residents are caught up in a brutal turf war between drug cartels.

In 2022, the United States decided to temporarily ban all avocado imports from Mexico after a safety inspector was verbally threatened. Release Days later, Mexico enacted additional safety measures for USDA inspectors.

In addition to competing for the drug trade, drug cartels are also trying to force their way into the legal economy. Especially the lucrative avocado industryIts success is largely due to American consumers’ craze for this creamy fruit.

Orchards that produce avocados for export to the United States and packing houses that process the fruits must be certified by Mexican authorities and USDA inspectors.

A USDA spokesman said the agency is committed to resuming inspections “as soon as possible.” He said avocados and mangoes in transit will not be impacted by the suspension “because they have already gone through the inspection process.”

Avocados’ popularity and profitability have raised environmental concerns in Mexico, with avocado orchards popping up in protected areas. Those places are forbidden to enter This is true for farmers and loggers alike. This leads to the loss of forests and the depletion of groundwater.

A Report Last year, a study by Climate Rights International, a nonprofit that documents the human rights impacts of climate change, found that as of March 2023, the United States and Mexico had certified more than 50,000 avocado orchards in Michoacan for export.

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