Avocado toast? US suspends imports from key region in Mexico

The pause in shipments is pending an investigation into a threatening phone call made to a food inspector.

Avocados are pictured in a crate in San Isidro orchard in Uruapan, in Michoacan state, Mexico
Mexican avocados account for about 80 percent of United States consumption, according to data from the Haas Avocado Board [File: Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

Avocados could get even more expensive as the U.S. temporarily suspends imports from the world’s biggest producing region in Mexico.

The U.S. has paused shipments from Michoacán pending an investigation into a threatening phone call made to one of its inspectors in the city of Uruapan. Mexico is currently looking into the issue, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in a news conference Monday. There are some who don’t want the Mexican avocado to enter the United States for economic and political reasons, he said.

“We could see a significant reduction in availability” of avocados in the U.S. and higher prices as a result, said David Magana, senior analyst for Rabobank International in Fresno, California.

Avocados are already the most expensive for this time of year in government data going back two decades due to the labor shortfalls, higher production costs and wage hikes that have plagued the broader economy. It’s one of the many products that’s helping to push global food prices closer to a record high.

At the same time, demand for the fruit is booming as Americans eat more guacamole than ever. Per-capita consumption doubled in the 10 years through 2020 to 9 pounds, and could surpass 11 pounds by 2026, Magana said, citing industry projections.

Mexican avocados account for about 80% of U.S. consumption, according to data from the Haas Avocado Board. California supplies about 16%.

–With assistance from Allison Smith and Mike Dorning.

Source: Bloomberg