Mexican Avocados Bound For The US Get Police Escort Ahead Of Super Bowl

It sounds like the stuff of fiction, but it's absolutely true. Americans want their avocados — and lots of 'em — for the Superbowl, and getting those avocados from Mexico to the U.S. is far more complicated and even controversial than most of us could imagine.

Avocados for the Super Bowl — scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023 — are big business. Vallarta News Daily reported in January that the country planned to send a staggering 130,000 tons of the bumpy fruit north for Super Bowl festivities, destined to provide roughly 30 million football fans with guacamole.

The Associated Press explains that Mexico supplies about 92% of the avocados imported by the U.S. which adds up to more than $3 billion annually. The Super Bowl shines a spotlight on the avocado ... a spotlight so bright that Avocados from Mexico shells out big bucks to run a commercial during the big game, notorious for its spendy advertising spots. Last year, that ad fell spectacularly flat, criticized for its cultural insensitivity and also conspicuous for its timing, given that the U.S. has just halted inspections and therefore importation of Mexican avocados just before the 2022 Super Bowl. 

But how will the avocados make their way to the US this year? They'll be riding in style, with a police escort. But why?

Avocado importing is fraught with danger

NPR points out that Michoacan, the Mexican state that supplies many of our avocados, is a dangerous place, rife with violent drug cartels that operate in the area and also involve themselves with lucrative agricultural exports like limes and our beloved avocados. Members of these cartels exert influence over several aspects of the avocado business, from growers to drivers, and last year even threatened an inspector with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is what prompted the U.S. to temporarily ban the importation of avocados.

The Courier Journal reported in 2021 that armed groups of civilians known as Pueblos Unidos attempted to protect the avocado trade, but this year, the Mexican government isn't taking chances with its valuable shipments of Super Bowl avocados. The Associated Press reported that Michoacan Civil Guard officers are providing armed escorts for drivers moving valuable truckloads of avocados, valued at as much as $100,000 per load, as the drivers make their way from remote rural growers to the packing and shipping plants in the city of Uruapan. The armed escorts for avocado shipments have been quite effective at preventing cartel theft of both avocados and the trucks that haul them, reducing theft by 90-95%, state police officer Jorge González told AP.

This year, if you're watching the Super Bowl with our tasty mango guacamole, it may be worth taking a moment to reflect on the arduous and dangerous route your alligator pears took to arrive at your tailgate party.