Mexico governor flags quick resumption of US avocado exports, US cautious

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -A Mexican governor hopes halted shipments of avocados to the United States can resume shortly after the U.S. suspended health inspections due to a security incident late last week, he said on Tuesday, though U.S. authorities were more cautious.

Michoacan state Governor Alfredo Ramirez said in an interview with Radio Formula he expected the inspection suspension, which has blocked exports of both avocados and mangoes, to be lifted between Tuesday and Thursday.

The suspension was announced over the weekend after an incident late Friday night, involving two U.S. embassy inspectors of Mexican nationality during a protest in the small community of Aranza, Michoacan.

Ramirez said the inspectors had been "improperly detained" in a vehicle during the protest, which a government source told Reuters was in support of local police.

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar however issued a statement shortly after, saying the inspectors had been "assaulted and detained while on duty in Michoacan inspecting avocados. They are no longer in captivity."

Salazar said the suspension would remain in place until security concerns are resolved. He added that this was purely a safety issue and that there were no sanitary concerns.

Michoacan state, which borders the Pacific Ocean, exports around $3.5 billion worth in avocados a year, exporting to more than thirty countries around the world - most notably to the U.S. which consumes around a million tons annually.

"I hope that with the measures we are taking together with the U.S. embassy ... that the exports of this valuable product to the United States can be resumed in the next few hours," Ramirez said.

"It could reopen Wednesday or Thursday, perhaps even today," he added.

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 Raul Cortes and Ana Isabel Martinez; Writing by Sarah Morland and Stéphanie Hamel; Editing by Kylie Madry, Stephen Eisenhammer and Josie Kao)