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Trade expert worries cartels will target more Mexican produce than just avocados

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Valeria Burdyka | Pexels
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An an expert on international trade worries drug cartels will go after other produce in Mexico besides avocados.

The U.S. suspended avocado imports after a U.S. plant safety inspector in the Mexican state of Michoacán was threatened.

The state is torn by drug cartel wars and growers are often threatened unless they pay protection money. The large and popular Hass avocado comes from Michoacán.

Gerry Schwebel is an executive vice president and head of the international division of Laredo-based IBC Bank.

He urges the leader of Mexico to get to the bottom of the threat as soon as possible before it becomes an example for cartels to follow concerning other Mexican produce.

"President Lopez-Obrador needs to resolve it swiftly and not let it linger there because right now it's avocados. What's going to be next?" Schwebel said.

Avocados and tomatoes are the biggest two exports from Mexico. Schwebel worries they and bell peppers, macadamia nuts, peaches, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries could become ripe for extortion.

"All of those are part of out daily diet now and the bulk of it comes from Mexico," he said.

Schwebel said prices on avocados are up in the U.S., but he said supply is not an issue because the U.S. also imports avocados from countries such as Chile and Peru. Israel is the biggest supplier of avocadoes to Europe, he said.

Produce exports are a large part of the Mexican economy; the country is perfectly situated to generate big harvests. Schwebel said Mexico sits on the same latitude as Hawaii, so most anything grown there could also be grown in Mexico.

He said Mexico produce makes its way to northern Mexico and into 29 Texas ports along the border to enter the U.S.

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