Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador dismissed the notion that the suspension was due to cartels associated with the avocado trade. Instead, he blamed unspecified political interests in the U.S. and pressure from other countries who want a share of the lucrative American avocado market.
One of the reasons the U.S. began allowing Mexican avocados to be imported over the objection of domestic growers was NAFTA. The U.S. wanted the ability to send corn and other agricultural goods to Mexico under the rules of the 1994 free trade agreement. But the Mexican government demanded some sort of agricultural export quid pro quo to help balance trade between the two countries, and avocados were ripe for the job.
The recent brief disruption underscores the risks of being so heavily reliant on a product that comes from one region in one country that's rife with violence and corruption.
Yet it isn't easy to simply open an avocado spigot from another country. Americans really prefer just one variety of avocado: the Hass, which is the type imported from Mexico. While the U.S. allows Hass avocado imports from Peru and Colombia, wholesalers prefer not to sell them because they're thought to be lower quality. Hass is the dominant variety grown in California, too, but American growers can't grow nearly enough to meet the demand.
Greenskin avocados, which are grown in Florida and the Caribbean, along with many other countries, aren't nearly as popular with consumers due to textural differences and the fact that they don't change color to indicate when they are ripe. Greenskin avocados could ease U.S. dependence on Mexican avocados, but until they gain acceptance by avocado eaters, they won't help wean Americans off the Hass avocados grown in Michoacán.
Avocados might be a source of political tension, but their unicorn status as a creamy, delicious food that's considered healthy makes most people willing to put politics aside and pass the guacamole.
Jeffrey Miller is an associate professor of hospitality management at Colorado State University.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. You can find the original article here.