Avocado Import Ban

Adam Calder
Wheatsfield Produce Manager

The avocado supply chain was severely interrupted on Saturday, February 12 when the United States Department of Agriculture suspended all imports of avocados from Mexico until further notice.

Any avocados inspected and imported into the United States before February 11 can be sold, but that supply will quickly run out. Around 75% of the avocados sold in the United States come from Mexico, with most of the rest coming from California.

The suspension is in response to an escalating and dangerous situation in the Mexican state of Michoacán. Two drug cartels, the Jalisco and the United Cartels are fighting a turf war and avocado farmers have become innocent victims. The cartels, well aware of the $3 billion worth of avocados exported out of Mexico each year, extort “protection” money from avocado farmers. If the farmers do not pay, they risk having their lives, families, and farms destroyed by the cartels.

The violence has escalated to the point that an inspector in Mexico working for the USDA received a threatening call on his work cell phone while he was inspecting an avocado facility. He reported the threat to his superiors, and the decision was made to suspend avocado imports until it is again safe for inspectors to do their jobs. This is not the first incident of violence or intimidation against inspectors in Mexico.

Unless this situation is resolved quickly, avocado pricing will go up and availability will go down. California cannot make up the difference caused by the sudden absence of Mexican avocados and has actually been steadily decreasing the acreage devoted to avocados for several years.

Ideally, the United States government and the Mexican government will work on resolving this issue quickly. Avocados crops in Michoacán mature over the next six weeks leading up to Cinco de Mayo celebrations. If the import ban is in effect over these next six weeks, then hundreds of millions of dollars worth of avocados will be dumped back into the domestic Mexican market. This will cause prices to plummet there and could destroy the livelihoods of thousands of farmers.

The produce department will do its best to keep avocados on the shelf during this difficult time, so please be patient if you notice a gap in our avocado availability.

We’ve also got our usual selection of Seed Savers cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, peppers, kales, okras, flowers and herbs. All the seed packets are $3.29 each, so come get yours soon while the selection is at its best and get your garden off to a great start this year.