US Resumes Avocado Inspections in Conflictive Mexican State

( – Inspectors from the US Department of Agriculture will be gradually resuming inspections of avocados and mangoes grown in the Michoacan state of Mexico just one week after inspections were temporarily suspended after USDA inspectors were assaulted.

In a June 21 statement, US Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar announced that USDA inspectors would “gradually” return to Michoacan packing plants “following recent aggression against them.” However, full inspection operations would not resume until necessary steps had been taken to guarantee their safety, Salazar said.

On June 14, two inspectors from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service were assaulted by assailants in Michoacan and temporarily held, prompting US officials to suspend inspections in Mexico’s largest avocado-producing region.

Because avocados are also grown in the United States, USDA inspectors work in Mexico to ensure the avocados exported to the US do not carry diseases that could spread to US crops.

Michoacan Governor Alfredo Ramírez Bedolla downplayed the June 14 incident, claiming earlier last week that the inspectors had been blocked by protesters in Aranza and were never in any danger.

The governor said he contacted the US Embassy on June 15 and that state security forces were providing security for the avocado growers and packers.

Avocado growers in the region say drug gangs demand protection money, often amounting to thousands of dollars an acre, and will threaten them or their families with kidnapping or death if it is not paid.

There have been other reports that some organized crime groups bring avocados grown in other Mexican states that are not cleared for export into Michoacan in an attempt to get them past USDA inspections.

Inspections of Mexican avocados were also suspended in February 2022 after a US safety inspector received threats. The suspension was subsequently lifted after a week.

That same year, the state of Jalisco became Mexico’s second state authorized to export avocados to the United States.

Last week’s suspension did not block Mexican avocados from entering the US since much of the Michoacan avocados were already in transit and Jalisco avocados were still being exported.

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