The US Has Paused Importing Mexican Avocados For This Shocking Reason

Did you host or attend a Super Bowl viewing party yesterday? If so, it's likely that you snacked on chips and dip, chicken wings, pizza, or nachos — the top four game day foods, according to a 2020 YouGov poll. And if you did indulge in nachos, chances are they were piled with guacamole; that smooth, creamy avocado mash we all love. According to Bleacher Report, the Super Bowl is a big day for avocados, when about 26 million of the pale green fruits are consumed in the form of guac.

If you dipped a chip into some guacamole yesterday, we hope you enjoyed every last bite, because you might not get to sink your teeth into another avocado for some time. According to the Associated Press (AP), the U.S. has suspended the import of all Mexican avocados — a surprising, and sobering, turn of events for taco lovers. Why deprive U.S. eaters of their beloved avocados? The reason might surprise you.

A US health official was threatened with violence

The largest avocado growing nation in the world, Mexico sends some 80% of its avocado export to its northern neighbor, the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). A lucrative trade that was worth about $2.8 billion USD in 2020, according to Statista, the avocado industry has unfortunately fallen prey to drug cartel territory skirmishes. As reported today by the AP, in the western Mexican state of Michoacán, the largest source of U.S.-exported avocados, growers are systematically extorted by the cartels in pursuit of a portion of the farmers' earnings. Now, it seems that violence is intensifying: according to the AP, a U.S. plant safety inspector working in Uruapan, Michoacán recently received a threat, which led to an immediate (though temporary) suspension of all avocado imports to the U.S.

"We are working with the Mexican government to guarantee security conditions that would allow our personnel in Michoacán to resume operations," the U.S. Embassy wrote on its social media pages (via AP). 

Mexico's avocado industry has been plagued by violence for years. According to a 2019 report in the Los Angeles Times, various cartels jostling for acreage in Michoacán have shown up, armed, to seize protected woodlands and plant their own illegal avocado orchards, as well as take over existing plantations in order to then profit from the fruit sales. As lighthearted as many guacamole-centered celebrations are, the industry behind the beloved snack continues to grow more dangerous.