Mexican Avocado Imports Resume after Brief Ban Due to Drug Cartel’s Threats

By Ashley Rahaim, 2L

As of recent years, the avocado demands keep rising within the United States, making avocados one of Mexico’s chief exports from the Michoacán region. In 2020, the United States imported $2.8 billion of the total $3 billion of avocados exported out of the area as a whole.  Due to the profitability of the avocado industry, cartels are attempting to control the trade. Cartels have been exerting control on the industry by extorting growers in Michoacán. Cartels utilize “government databases” in order to locate, coerce, and abduct avocado farmers within the region. The Americans working in the region also face ongoing dangers from the presence of the cartels, but the dangers have escalated in recent years. 

In 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture issued a formal warning that the agency would entirely stop the avocado inspecting process after a group of inspectors working for the agency were robbed at gunpoint by people associated with criminal organizations. If the industry came to a halt, the Mexican avocado industry in Michoacán would have catastrophic consequences because “approximately 80%” of the region’s avocados come to the United States. 

For those reasons, when the cartel threatened a United States Department of Agriculture inspector’s life on February 11 of this year, the agency placed a temporary ban on the importation of Mexican avocados into the country. The ban took effect on Saturday, February 12, but was lifted less than a week later. Even though the ban was rather short, it caused worry throughout the industry of the costs associated with the ban.

An analyst, Falko Ernst, commenting on the actions of the United States, stated that the actions of the United States, specifically the ban, were the improper solution to the problem of threats to American personnel acting in the region. Alternatively, Ernst suggested that the United States handle the unstable security directly by helping the area to create programs regarding the issues in the avocado industry. Overall, infiltration by these cartels in the avocado market are shedding light on their presence in different economic markets.

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