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Following threats to inspectors, US bans avocado imports from Mexico

WASHINGTON D.C.: The U.S. has suspended avocado imports from Michoacn, the only state in Mexico cleared to export to the U.S., causing fears of shortages at grocery stores and restaurants.

Industry insiders have warned that supplies may run out within days, resulting in higher prices for the few avocados available at stores.

According to the Hass Avocado Board, Mexico accounts for 83 percent of the United States’ annual supply of Hass avocados, while Keith Slattery, executive at Stonehill Produce, a major importer of Mexico-grown Hass avocados, said the U.S. market only has about a week’s worth of avocado inventory.

“That will dry up quickly,” he told Bloomberg.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suspended imports effective 1st February after learning of what it described as a “verbal threat” against employees of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, adding that the ban will remain in effect “as long as necessary” to ensure the safety of its inspectors in Mexico.

Raul Lopez, Mexico analyst at market research firm Agtools, said existing supplies of avocados marked for delivery to grocery stores will sell out “in a few days.”

“The consumer will have very few products available, and prices will rise drastically,” he told the Washington Post.

According to JPMorgan Chase analysts, avocado suppliers based in other regions, including the U.S. and Peru, are unlikely to provide enough supply to offset the losses from the Mexican ban.

The USDA has yet to reveal the nature of the threat that caused the suspension. When asked to comment, a USDA official said the agency had no updates since its initial statement.

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The suspension of imports will increase pressure on restaurant chains, such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, which relies on avocados from Mexico to make guacamole. Its CFO, Jack Hartung, told The Washington Post the company is “working closely with our suppliers to navigate through this challenge.”

In a statement, Hartung said, “Our sourcing partners currently have several weeks of inventory available, so we’ll continue to closely monitor the situation and adjust our plans accordingly.”