The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is threatening to suspend its avocado certification program after threats and violence against inspectors in Michoacán.
According to military sources who spoke with the newspaper Reforma, the USDA issued a travel warning for 38 Michoacán municipalities, most of which have significant avocado production.
There are 58 USDA employees stationed in Michoacán who are responsible for inspecting conditions on farms that grow avocados for export to the United States.
On August 16, USDA agents were threatened by a suspected criminal gang after cancelling the certification of an avocado farm in the community of Copal in the municipality of Ziracuaretiro.
Last week, a group of USDA agents traveling with local authorities in Ziracuaretiro were robbed and their vehicle was stolen. After the incident, officials from the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara met with an association of avocado growers to demand better security for USDA agents, threatening to end the export program if the situation does not improve.
On Monday, the USDA issued the travel warning and requested the cooperation of Gabriel Villaseñor, the leader of the Mexican Avocado Producers and Packers Association (APEAM), to improve security.
Marie Martin, USDA director for pre-authorization in Mexico, told Reforma that the avocado export program will be suspended if USDA personnel are put at risk again.
“In future situations that cause a security violation or an imminent physical threat, we will immediately suspend the program,” she said.
Source: Reforma (sp)