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US avocado import ban from Mexico sparks fears of nationwide shortage

The US suspension of avocado imports from Mexico is already sparking fears of shortages at grocery stores and restaurants, with industry insiders warning the market may be just days away from running out of its supply. A lengthy halt in shipments from Michoacán, the only state in Mexico cleared to export the fruit to the US, would leave US businesses without many options to obtain enough avocados to meet massive demand – and result in higher prices for the few avocados available at stores. Mexico accounts for 83% of the US’s annual supply of Hass avocados, according to the Hass Avocado Board. Keith Slattery, the top executive at Stonehill Produce, a major importer of Mexico-grown Hass avocados, said the US market only has about a week’s worth of avocado inventory in the pipeline. “That’ll dry up quickly,” Slattery told Bloomberg. The US Department of Agriculture suspended imports effective Feb. 11 after learning of what it described as a “verbal threat” against employees of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Officials say the pause will remain in effect “as long as necessary” to ensure the safety of its inspectors in Mexico. Existing inventory of avocados tabbed for delivery to grocery stores will sell out “in a few days,” according to Raul Lopez, Mexico analyst at market research firm Agtools. “The consumer will have very few products available, and prices will rise drastically,” Lopez told the Washington Post. Avocado suppliers based in other regions, including the US and Peru, likely can’t provide enough supply to offset the loss of Mexico’s volume, according to JPMorgan Chase analysts. And even before the import ban was in place, the price of avocados grown in Mexico had spiked to their highest level on record. The USDA has been mostly quiet about the situation and has yet to reveal the nature of the threat that sparked the suspension. When reached for comment on Tuesday afternoon, a USDA official said the agency had no updates to share beyond its initial statement. The USDA did not return an additional request for comment on the possibility of a nationwide avocado shortage. The suspension of imports will only increase pressure on restaurant chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill, which relies on avocados from Mexico to make its popular guacamole. Earlier this week, Chipotle’s CFO Jack Hartung told The Post the company is “working closely with our suppliers to navigate through this challenge.” “Our sourcing partners currently have several weeks of inventory available, so we’ll continue to closely monitor the situation and adjust our plans accordingly,” Hartung said in a statement.

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