Assault on US Avocado inspectors in Mexican state leads to suspension of inspections

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Two U.S. Department of Agriculture employees were assaulted and temporarily detained by an attacker in the Mexican state of Michoacan, prompting the U.S. government to suspend inspections of avocado and mango shipmentsthe U.S. ambassador to Mexico said Tuesday.

Ambassador Ken Salazar said in a statement that the assault occurred while the employees were inspecting lawyers in Michoacan. He said they were no longer detained.

U.S. officials confirmed Monday the pause in inspections, citing security concerns.

Employees work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Health and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS). Since the United States also grows avocados, U.S. inspectors work in Mexico to ensure that exported avocados do not carry diseases that could harm U.S. crops.

“To ensure the safety of our agricultural inspection teams, APHIS has suspended inspections of avocados and mangoes in Michoacan until these safety issues are resolved,” Salazar said.

Michoacan is Mexico’s largest avocado exporter.

Michoacán Governor Alfredo Ramírez Bedolla told Mexican radio station Radio Formula on Tuesday that the inspectors were arrested during a protest by residents of Aranza, western Michoacan, on June 14. He downplayed the situation, suggesting they were never in danger. He said he made contact with the U.S. Embassy the next day and that state forces were providing security to avocado growers and packers in the state.

“I hope we will have good news in the coming hours,” he said, referring to a possible resumption of inspections.

Inspections in other Mexican states are not affected, Salazar said.

The Mexican Growers and Packers Association said in a statement Tuesday that it was working closely with government officials in Mexico and the United States to resume avocado exports from Michoacan.

He said the incident that prompted the suspension was “unrelated to the avocado industry.”

Many Michoacan avocado growers say drug gangs threaten them or their family members with kidnapping or death unless they pay a protection fee, sometimes amounting to thousands of dollars. dollars per acre.

There have also been reports that organized crime is bringing in avocados grown in other states that are not permitted for export and attempting to pass them through U.S. inspections.

In February 2022, the US government Suspended inspections of Mexican lawyers “until further notice” after a US safety inspector at the Michoacan factory received a threatening message. The shutdown was lifted after about a week.

Later that year, Jalisco became the second Mexican state authorized to export avocados to the United States

The new pause in inspections will not block shipments of Mexican avocados to the United States because Jalisco is now an exporter and many Michoacan avocados are already in transit.

Salazar said he will travel to Michoacan next week to meet with Bedolla and the growers and packers association.


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