Mexico City – American consumers will finally get a chance to try avocados from Jalisco after 25 years when neighboring Michoacan was the only Mexican state authorized to send the green fruit to the US market.
That could help raise prices this year to more than $2 per fruit amid a drop in production in Michoacan.
Farmers and packers in Jalisco, northwest of Michoacan, have expressed hope that their state can provide more consistent and stable production levels for avocado prices, which have fluctuated widely amid seasonal supply shortages.
Eleven trucks, carrying nearly 20 tons of avocados from Jalisco, lined up Thursday in the mountain town of Zapotlan El Grande to head to the United States.
“When we were talking about very high prices a month ago, it was because the market was not getting enough supplies,” said Javier Medina Villanueva, president of the Jalisco Avocado Export Association. So we think the entry into Jalisco will close this supply shortage. …I think prices will stabilize.”
US consumers won’t immediately realize the difference: Jalisco avocados will bear no special label, and will simply be labeled “avocados from Mexico” — a phrase that producers have promoted for years in Michoacan.
The president of the Michoacan-based Mexican Avocado Growers Association, Jose Luis Gallardo, said he does not see Jalisco, or any other Mexican state now claiming US export certification, as a competition.
Gallardo said of the other states: “Today is a day of joy for all, knowing that Jalisco is here, but it will be happier when the state of Mexico comes, when Nayarit, Colima, Puebla, Morelos come,” noting that there was room for more exports; Last season’s production in Michoacan fell by about 200,000 tons.
Mexico currently provides about 92% of US imports of the fruit, and the Mexican Department of Agriculture says it is working to obtain more certification from the states. About half a dozen states grow large quantities of the fruit, which favors the higher altitudes and cooler climates of Mexico.
Medina Villanueva noted that meeting American health requirements was not easy. “It took 10 years,” he said. “It took patience.”
US agricultural inspectors must certify that Mexican avocados do not carry diseases or pests that would harm US orchards. The Mexican harvest runs from January to March, while the American harvest runs from April to September.
The inspections were halted in February for about 10 days after a US inspector was threatened in Michoacan, where farmers are routinely subjected to extortion by drug cartels. Some packaging workers in Michoacan were reportedly buying avocados from other non-certified countries and trying to consider them from Michoacan, and were angry that the US inspector would not approve.
Exports resumed after Mexico and the United States agreed to “enact safety measures” for inspectors.
Francisco Trujillo, head of Mexico’s Plant and Animal Safety Agency, noted that the Michoacan export ban should be a lesson for Jalisco producers.
“Caution should be part of this day of festivities,” Trujillo said, noting that avocados certified for export are four or five times those destined for local markets, creating “temptations” to pass on the uncertified fruit. “We can risk this festive day turning into a tragedy” if the US bans exports again, he said.
Jalisco’s governor, Enrique Alfaro, has acknowledged that his state will have to avoid problems with Michoacan’s avocado reputation, as some farmers have cut down local pine forests to grow avocado trees and drained the local water supply for irrigation. Drug cartels have also extorted protection payments from avocado growers and packers.
Alvaro said Jalisco has plans to “develop a safety program … so that this product can be produced in the orchards, shipped through Jalisco and reached its final destination safely.”
Alvaro also said he would push to certify Jalisco avocado-free, something Michoacan has been slow to do.
The idea of pushing a plan to certify avocados free of deforestation should not only be a problem for some farmers. “We want to demonstrate that as a commitment for the benefit of the entire industry,” Alvaro said.
At this point, Jalisco only has about 20,000 acres (8420 ha) of avocado orchards certified as pest-free, a small amount compared to the more than 300,000 acres (120,000 ha) in Michoacan. But Alvaro said another 65,000 acres (26,000 hectares) in Jalisco are on the way to certification.
But it’s unclear whether exporting more avocados will hurt Mexican consumers, many of whom have been unable to afford traditional guacamole — and the avocado slices that accompany many foods in Mexico — after local prices reached nearly $3 a pound in weeks. Last.
Recipes for fake guacamole made largely from green tomatoes or zucchini have been circulating on social media in Mexico amid soaring prices. This, along with rising lime costs, has contributed to the higher prices of tacos at street stalls.