The 2nd state of Mexico begins avocado exports to the US market

MEXICO CITY — US consumers will finally have the chance to try Jalisco avocados after 25 years in which neighboring Michoacan was the only Mexican state allowed to send the green fruit to the US market.

This could help with prices, which have soared to over $ 2 per fruit this year in a drop in production in Michoacan.

Growers and packers in Jalisco, just northwest of Michoacan, have expressed hope that their state will provide more consistent production levels and price stability for avocados, which have fluctuated widely due to seasonal supply shortages.

Eleven trucks carrying 200 tons of Jalisco avocados lined up Thursday in the mountain town of Zapotlan El Grande to leave for the United States.

“When we talked about very high prices a month ago, it was because the market was not getting enough stock,” said Javier Medina Villanueva, president of the Jalisco Avocado Export Association. “So we believe Jalisco’s entry will close that supply shortage. … I think prices will stabilize “.

Consumers in the United States will not immediately recognize the difference: Jalisco avocados will not carry any special markings and will be labeled simply as “avocado from Mexico”, a phrase promoted by Michoacan producers for years.

The head of the Michoacan-based Mexican Avocado Growers and Packers Association Jose Luis Gallardo said he doesn’t see Jalisco, or any of the other Mexican states now clamoring for U.S. export certification, as competition. .

“Today is a day of joy for everyone, knowing that Jalisco is here, but it will be happier when the State of Mexico arrives, when Nayarit, Colima, Puebla, Morelos will arrive,” said Gallardo of the other states, noting there was room for more exports; last season’s production in Michoacan decreased by about 200,000 tons.

Mexico currently supplies about 92% of U.S. fruit imports, and the Mexican Agricultural Department says it is working towards certification from more states. About half a dozen states grow significant amounts of fruit, which Mexico prefers higher elevations and cooler climates.

Medina Villanueva noted that meeting US health requirements was not easy. “It took 10 years,” she said. “It took patience”.

U.S. agricultural inspectors must certify that Mexican avocados are not carriers of diseases or pests that would harm U.S. orchards. The Mexican harvest runs from January to March, while US production runs from April to September.

Inspections were suspended in February for about 10 days after one of the US inspectors was threatened in Michoacan, where growers are regularly subjected to extortion by drug cartels. Some packers in Michoacan were reportedly buying avocados from other uncertified states and trying to pass them off as Michoacan, and were angry that the US inspector would not get along.

Exports resumed after Mexico and the United States decided to “enact measures to ensure the safety” of inspectors.

Francisco Trujillo, the head of the Mexican plant and animal safety agency, noted that Michoacan’s export ban should be a lesson for Jalisco producers.

“Caution should be part of this day of celebration,” said Trujillo, noting that avocados certified for export were worth four or five times more than those destined for domestic markets, creating “temptations” to peddle non-certified fruit. “We could run the risk of this holiday becoming a tragedy” if the United States were to ban exports again, she said.

Exports to Mexico were worth about $ 2.8 billion in 2021. The price Mexican growers get for their crops – just $ 1 per pound – is still much higher than any other crop they could grow, so much so that avocados they have raised thousands of small producers out of poverty.

Jalisco Governor Enrique Alfaro acknowledged that his state will need to avoid the problems that have plagued the reputation of avocados in Michoacan, where some growers have cut down native pine forests to plant avocado trees and drained local water supplies to irrigate them. The drug cartels have also extorted protection payments from avocado growers and packers.

Alfaro said Jalisco plans to “develop a safety program … so that this product can be produced in the orchards, shipped through Jalisco and reach its final destination safely.”

Alfaro also said he will push to certify Jalisco avocados as deforestation-free, which Michoacan has been slow to do.

“The idea of ​​promoting a plan to certify avocados as deforestation-free shouldn’t be a problem for just a few growers. We want to establish this as an obligation for the good of the entire industry,” Alfaro said.

Logging activist Guillermo Saucedo, who was kidnapped by gunmen in the town of Villa Madero, Michoacan in 2021, said he doubted the government or farmers would take action in his forested hamlet, where he claimed that fields, Newly cleared pits and holding ponds used to water avocado plantations continue to appear.

“The authorities are not taking action,” Saucedo said. “They let them do what they want.”

At this point, Jalisco has only about 20,000 acres (8,420 hectares) of avocado orchards certified as pest-free, a small amount compared to Michoacan’s more than 300,000 acres (120,000 hectares). But Alfaro said another 65,000 acres (26,000 hectares) in Jalisco were waiting to be certified.

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