Strike action by avocado growers in Michoacán is costing the industry 85 million pesos (US $4.3 million) a day, according to a producers’ industry association.
More than 1,000 producers stopped work and set up checkpoints on highways in 11 municipalities last week to stop avocados from other parts of Mexico coming in to Michoacán to be exported later to the United States under their exclusive export agreement.
They claim that the practice of sending avocados from other parts of the country into Michoacán to be passed off as a locally-grown product was driving down the cost of their genuine aguacates michoacanos.
Ramón Paz, spokesman for the Mexican Association of Avocado Producers and Packers, said Mexico normally sends 3,000 tonnes of avocados to the United States every day but due to the work stoppage the amount is falling short and revenue is being lost.
The striking producers are asking that a minimum price of 35 pesos (US $1.75) per kilo be set because for the past two months the best price they have received is just 20 pesos, which has led to economic losses and employee layoffs.
However, prices can’t be fixed, Paz explained, because competition laws in both Mexico and the United States allow for free trade between individuals.
He said the growers’ demand for a higher price is not justified because even at 20 pesos per kilo they are making profits of eight to nine pesos a kilo.
If the disgruntled producers don’t end their strike, which has affected more than 24,000 workers in the sector, petitions will be made to state and federal authorities to intervene and reestablish the rule of law, Paz said.
In addition to monetary losses, he said, the strike in Michoacán had led to advertising contracts in the United States being canceled.
The Mexican avocado promotional campaign shown during the Super Bowl, which has generated massive revenue for the industry, is also at a risk of being canceled, Paz said.
More than two million tonnes of avocados were produced in Mexico last year, of which 80% were grown in Michoacán.
The United States is by far the industry’s biggest export market but Mexican avocados are shipped to 45 countries around the world including China, where the product is rapidly gaining popularity.
Source: El Universal (sp)