MEXICO CITY – Mexico has acknowledged that the U.S. government has suspended all imports of Mexican avocados after a U.S. plant safety inspector in Mexico received a threat.

The unexpected suspension was confirmed late Saturday on the eve of the Super Cup, the biggest sales opportunity of the year for Mexican avocado growers.

Avocado exports have become the latest victims of the fight against drug cartels and extortion by avocado growers in the western state of Michoacán, the only state in Mexico fully allowed to export to the U.S. market.

The U.S. government has suspended all Mexican avocado imports “until further notice” after a plant safety inspector in Mexico received a threatening message, the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement.

“U.S. health authorities … made the decision after one of their officials, who conducted inspections in Uruapan, Michoacan, received a threatening message on his official cell phone,” the department said.

The import ban came on the day the Mexican Association of Avocado Growers and Packers unveiled its Super Bowl ad for this year. Mexican exporters have been removing expensive advertising for almost a decade, trying to link guacamole to the Super Cup tradition.

This year’s commercial shows how Julius Caesar and a bunch of rude gladiator fans outside of what appears to be the Colosseum are soothing their apparently fierce disagreements while enjoying guacamole and avocado.

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The association did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the ban, which is hitting the industry with nearly $ 3 billion in annual exports. However, the avocado for this year’s Super Cup had already been exported a few weeks before the event.

Because the United States also grows avocados, U.S. inspectors are working in Mexico to ensure that exported avocados do not tolerate diseases that could damage the U.S. crop.

Only in 1997 did the U.S. lift a ban on Mexican avocados, which had been in effect since 1914 to prevent a number of weevils, scab and pests from entering U.S. gardens.

Inspectors work in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services.

This is not the first time violence in Michoacan – where the Jalisco cartel is fighting local gangs known as the United Cartels – has threatened avocados, the state’s most lucrative crop.

Following a previous incident in 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture warned of the possible consequences of an attack or threat to U.S. inspectors.

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In August 2019, a group of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors was “directly threatened” in Shirakuaretira, a city west of Uruapan. Although the agency did not specify what happened, local authorities say the gang under the barrel of a weapon robbed a truck carrying inspectors.

At the time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture wrote in a letter that “for future situations that lead to security breaches or demonstrate an immediate physical threat to the well-being of APHIS personnel, we will immediately suspend the program.”

Many avocado growers in Michoacan say drug gangs threaten them or their family members with kidnapping or death if they do not pay money for protection, which sometimes reaches thousands of dollars per acre.

On September 30, 2020, a Mexican APHIS officer was killed near the northern border town of Tijuana.

Mexican prosecutors said Edgar Flores Santos was killed by drug traffickers who may have mistaken him for a police officer, and the suspect was arrested. The U.S. State Department said the investigation “concluded that this unfortunate incident was a case of Mr. Flores being in the wrong place and at the wrong time.”

The ban on avocados has become the latest threat to Mexico’s export trade due to the government’s inability to curb illegal activities.

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On Thursday, the U.S. Trade Mission filed a environmental complaint against Mexico for failing to stop illegal fishing to protect the endangered Wakita pier, the world’s smallest pig hog.

The office said it had asked for “environmental consultations” with Mexico, the first such case it has filed under the US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Pact. The consultations are the first step in the process of resolving disputes under the trade agreement, which entered into force in 2020. Failure to resolve this could eventually lead to trade sanctions.

The Mexican government has largely abandoned attempts to introduce a fishing-free zone around the area, which is believed to be home to several recent wolves in the Gulf of California, also known as the Cortes Sea. Nets set up illegally for other fish, totoaba, drown wakita.

And on Monday, Mexican fishing boats in the Gulf of Mexico were “banned from entering U.S. ports, they will be denied access to the port and service,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in response to years of illegal poaching by Mexican boats in the United States. water in the bay.

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