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U.S. suspends avocado, mango inspections in Mexican state on security concerns

A worker packs avocados at a plant in Uruapan, Michoacan state, Mexico, Friday, Feb. 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Armando Solis) A worker packs avocados at a plant in Uruapan, Michoacan state, Mexico, Friday, Feb. 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Armando Solis)
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MEXICO CITY -

The United States paused safety inspections for avocados and mangos from a top-producing Mexican state due to a security incident involving U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) staff, a spokesperson for the agency said on Monday.

The spokesperson said Mexican exports from the western state of Michoacan have not been blocked, and avocados and mangos already in transit would not be affected by the suspension of inspections, which would be paused "until further notice."

A prolonged suspension to the avocado inspections in particular could cause a significant hit to one of Mexico's top farm exports, which have steadily grown in popularity with U.S. consumers in recent years.

"The (safety inspection) programs will remain paused until the security situation is reviewed and protocols and safeguards are in place," the USDA spokesperson said.

A government source in Michoacan told Reuters the temporary suspension was triggered last Saturday following an incident at a protest in support of local police in the municipality of Paracho.

Earlier on Monday, Michoacan Governor Alfredo Ramirez told reporters he had been in constant contact with U.S. officials since Sunday, giving them a "guarantee" that proper export conditions from the state are in place.

Mexico's agriculture ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In 2022, U.S. officials temporarily suspended avocado shipments from Michoacan, a state that has suffered longstanding problems with gang violence, also citing security problems faced by inspectors.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Additional reporting by Caroline Stauffer in Chicago; Editing by Stephen Eisenhammer, Chris Reese and Jamie Freed)

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