Less than a week after the United States Department of Agriculture announced that it would halt avocado exports from Mexico following an anonymous threat directed at one of its inspectors in the country, the agency has officially rescinded that decision.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) resumed its inspections of Mexican-grown avocados on February 18 after an agreement between its Mexican counterpart SENASICA and the Association of Avocado Producers and Packers Exporters of Mexico (APEAM). According to a press release, the agreement “enacted additional measures that enhance safety for PHIS inspectors working in the field.” The agency didn’t elaborate on what those safety measures might be but stressed that “the safety of USDA employees simply doing their jobs is of paramount importance.”
Even though it only lasted a short time, the USDA’s decision to block Mexican avocado imports was extremely costly for both American consumers and Mexican producers. According to a statement provided to Eater by the APEAM, the interruption “likely resulted in a cost of more than $120 million in the United States throughout the supply chain, impacting wholesale, retail, and service industries at both the state and national levels.”
Thanks to inflation, avocado prices are already higher than they were this time last year — $1.36 per avocado was the average price in January 2022, compared to $1.05 in January 2021. Even though imports have resumed, it’s likely that avocado enthusiasts will continue to see higher prices in the coming days. Those impacts may not be felt immediately, largely because the avocados that were stuck in Mexico during the stoppage are now en route to the United States, but trade experts still expect avocado prices to spike in the coming days.
Fortunately, those higher prices probably won’t stick around in the long-term. January is the beginning of peak growing season for Mexican avocados, which means that supply will continue to increase in the coming weeks, reducing prices. By April, when the U.S. avocado growing season kicks off, the avocado supply should be stabilized thanks to more domestic production and imports from other countries, like Peru.
But even though the trade issue has been resolved, and prices are expected to decline in the coming weeks, the issues that avocado farmers in Mexico face still persist. They won’t be subjected to major crop losses this time around, but it’s unlikely that these safety measures intended to protect American produce inspectors will keep farmers in Michoacan, where most of the country’s avocados are grown, safe from extortion and violence as a brutal cartel war continues in the region.