USDA pauses avocado, mango inspections in Mexican state due to security concerns

The agency said the pause will not impact produce in transit to the U.S.

June 18, 2024, 9:51 AM

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has temporarily paused any new exports of mangoes and avocados out of Michoacán, Mexico after an incident that reportedly sparked security concerns for its safety inspectors on the ground.

A spokesman for the agency said Monday that the inspection program will remain paused until it can ensure its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service inspectors working in Mexico are safe.

While the USDA did not elaborate on the nature of the specific security threats, Reuters first reported the suspension stemmed from a protest in support of local police in the municipality of Paracho.

Mangoes are seen in a net during harvest on a farm, March 24, 2021, in Actopan, Veracruz state, Mexico.
Hector Quintanar/Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

"The programs will remain paused until the security situation is reviewed and protocols and safeguards are in place for APHIS personnel," the USDA spokesman added.

The USDA first alerted the Avocado Exporting Producers and Packers of Mexico of its decision to suspend new exports out of the western Mexican state earlier this month.

In this Feb. 21, 2022 file photo, employees work at an avocados packing plant in the municipality of Ario de Rosales, Michoacan state, Mexico.
Alfredo Estrella/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Any produce that has already been inspected and is in transit will not be blocked or impacted by the suspension, the agency said.

This marks the second time in just over two years that inspections have been suspended following an incident in February 2022 that dealt with USDA employee safety, which was resolved within a week of the ban and had no severe impact on the avocado supply in the U.S.

Avocados are seen in boxes at a packing plant, Sept. 21, 2023, in Michoacan State, Mexico.
Alfredo Estrella/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

The USDA has inspectors working in Mexico to ensure the products meet U.S. standards, without whose signoff the avocados and mangos cannot be sent north.

Michoacán and Jalisco are the only two Mexican states allowed to export avocados to the U.S., an industry worth billions of dollars each year.

Avocados are seen growing on trees in an orchard, Sept. 21, 2023, in the Michoacan State, Mexico.
Alfredo Estrella/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Michoacán is known as one of Mexico's most dangerous states, which has been dominated by organized crime for decades. The avocado industry has been no exception, with extortion rampant in the lucrative produce industry.

If the current issue is not resolved as swiftly as the 2022 incident, and the supply chain is disrupted for a long period of time, there could be an impact on U.S. supply.

ABC News' Conor Finnegan and Matthew Rivers contributed to this report.