The U.S. suspended all imports of Mexican avocados that could send prices to near-record highs in the coming weeks on diminishing supplies if the ban remains in place. The reason for the import halt is a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector was threatened by what is presumed to be drug cartel members.
"U.S. health authorities…made the decision after one of their officials, who was carrying out inspections in Uruapan, Michoacan, received a threatening message on his official cellphone," Mexico's Agriculture Department said in a statement. -AP News
The surprise halt comes as the price of a 20-pound box of avocados from the state of Michoacan, Mexico (the central hub of Mexican avocado production) is approximately $26.89, the highest ever for this time of year with data going back to 1998.
This year alone, avocado prices are up 31%. The import ban came on the eve of the Super Bowl and may send spot prices to record highs on the prospects of tighter supplies.
Supply woes aren't expected to affect Super Bowl consumption since those avocados had already been shipped, but there are concerns disruptions could be seen in the weeks ahead (if the import ban remains in place).
The ban also comes as the Avocados From Mexico association unveiled its Super Bowl ad that will be shown during the game.
Violence against USDA inspectors is nothing new since the Michoacan state is known for cartel turf wars. In 2019, a team of inspectors was threatened by a cartel.
USDA wrote in a memo at the time, "For future situations that result in a security breach, or demonstrate an imminent physical threat to the well-being of APHIS personnel, we will immediately suspend program activities."