(NEW YORK) — The leading global producer of avocados is temporarily banned from sending the sought after fruit from Mexico to the U.S.
Despite the demand for imported avocados, the U.S. government announced a ban “until further notice” after a U.S. plant safety inspector in Michoacán — the only state with U.S. market access — received a threatening message to an official cellphone, Mexico’s Agriculture Department Mexico’s Agriculture Department said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
“U.S. health authorities … made the decision after one of their officials, who was carrying out inspections in Uruapan, Michoacán, received a threatening message on his official cellphone,” the department wrote.
Michoacán has been the site of drug cartel turf battles where avocado growers have experienced extortion, the AP reported.
Despite challenges with the supply chain and harvest due to COVID-19, the Office of Agriculture Affairs for Mexico reported that production and exports from Michoacán were forecast to grow this year.
“Avocados are a significant agricultural product for Mexico, and one of the primary beneficiaries of the U.S.,” the department said in its annual report. “Mexico agricultural trade under the North American Free Trade Agreement (now United States- Mexico- Canada Agreement), with Mexican avocado trade values increasing over 455 percent since its implementation.”
The Office of Agriculture Affairs for Mexico did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
Over the past few decades, domestic production of avocados has dropped more than 45%, according to the Avocado Institute of Mexico. The organization reported that avocado consumption in the U.S. skyrocketed from 1.5 pounds to 7.5 pounds from 1998 to 2017.
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