Avocado imports from Mexico to the U.S. have been suspended following a threat to a USDA field inspector, Mexican authorities have confirmed.
The threat was a text to an official cell phone assigned to an employee of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services. The employee was working in the western Mexican state of Michoacán, the only region fully authorized to export avocados to the U.S., according to NBC News.
Avocados are the region’s most lucrative crop and have been the subject of extortion and other criminal activity by local gangs and cartels. Farmers report having to pay protection money that sometimes amounts to thousands of dollars per acre.
Further details on the nature of the threat to the American inspector were not available.
The U.S. banned avocados from crossing the Mexican border until 1997, fearing disease that could attack American avocado crops. The USDA maintains inspectors to overlook the Mexican crops and ensure they are disease-free.
Avocados have become a major Mexican commodity, with Avocados from Mexico, a trade group for growers and packers, taking out Super Bowl TV ads for almost a decade.