Jalisco avocado delay in the U.S. has 'nothing to do with Trump'
As Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto seeks to retain a positive trading relationship in the United States - where his new counterpart Donald Trump has vowed to get a better deal out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) - what will negotiations mean for the flourishing commerce of fruits and vegetables between both countries?
With Trump's every move bringing with it a potential game-changer like his withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) yesterday, produce industry players can be forgiven for taking any trade-restrictive event as a signal for more protectionist measures to come.
But in the case of a delay on approved avocado imports from the Mexican state of Jalisco, Mexico's Agriculture Secretary José Calzada has assured the public this is not the case.
Calzada has made a call for calm, highlighting the detention and rejection of Jalisco-grown avocados actually occurred while Barack Obama was still in power.
"It has nothing to do with that. That was last week and the new Administration in the United States hadn't arrived yet," Calzada said in an interview with Grupo Formula.
"We assumed things were in order. It's an administrative question," he told the broadcaster.
The Mexican press has reported 120 metric tons (MT) of avocados from Jalisco were blocked from entering the United States, and the Jalisco Avocado Growers and Exporters Association (Apeajal) opted to re-direct the fruit to Canada.
"In these types of negotiations, as they say, from the plate to the mouth sometimes the soup falls, and I think that's what's happened. We have to wait and give confidence to the authorities - we are hopeful that the issue will be resolved soon," Apeajal leader Ignacio Gomez told El Informador.
In a statement given to Fresh Fruit Portal, the Avocado Producers and Exporting Packers Association of Mexico (APEAM) reiterated Calzada's point.
"This issue is not related to Trump. The shipment should have crossed the border on Wednesday, Jan. 18 (before Trump assumed power), following the signing of a new Work Plan agreed upon between SAGARPA (of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food) and the Department of Agriculture of the United States," APEAM said.
"This new Work Plan already includes Jalisco. However, at the last minute a contingency came up that prevented the USDA and SAGARPA from signing this document, and therefore the trucks from Jalisco couldn't cross."
Avocado industry veteran and regular Fresh Fruit Portal contributor Avi Crane says the initial five truckloads of Jalisco-grown Hass avocados were packed and certified by the USDA, but were forced to either be sent to Canada or the Mexican domestic market in Monterrey and Mexico City.
"My sources inform me that the USDA failed to execute the APHIS Work Plan, which has already been approved and published in the Federal Register," Crane says.
"Therefore, the APHIS regulations currently in force do not allow Jalisco-produced avocados to cross into the USA.
"With just two weeks remaining in the harvest, we can assume that the USA market won’t see Jalisco Hass until the fourth quarter of 2017.
"I expect that the avocado packing houses in Guzman, Jalisco will source, pack and ship avocados from the Michoacán municipalities that border Jalisco."
Avocados from Mexico promotions
In more upbeat news, marketing group Avocados From Mexico (AFM) has entered a partnership with Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG) with a new online game called ‘Cado Crusher' ahead of the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.
In the game users have three rounds to smash and combine ingredients to make their own version of the food chain's guacamole, and are rewarded with a mobile offer good for a free order of chips and guacamole when they purchase an entrée at any Chipotle outlet in the U.S.
"This game provides a fun way for our customers to see the short list of quality ingredients that go into each and every batch of our scratch-made guacamole, while also giving them a chance to enjoy some chips and guac on us to complement their meal,” said Chipotle chief marketing and development officer Mark Crumpacker.
"Avocados From Mexico is excited to partner with Chipotle this month to celebrate the star ingredient in their poplar guacamole -- fresh, great-tasting avocados,” said Avocados From Mexico president Alvaro Luque.
"Guacamole super fans, and those new to Chipotle, will enjoy the ‘Cado Crusher game as part of our promotion around the Big Game, and we are thrilled to team up with Chipotle to provide free guacamole to their customers across the country."
Photo: USDA, via Flickr Creative Commons