Avocados are just off Super Bowl weekend, arguably the most celebrated time of year for the  creamy-fleshed fruit, which makes its way into bowls of guacamole and TV ads touting the fruit’s flavorful uses and many health benefits. 
But is there a shortage on the way and soaring prices? For now, stores like Honey Bee La Colmena in Detroit’s Mexicantown neighborhood say it’s too early to tell. 
On Saturday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service  suspended exports of avocados from the Michoacan state of Mexico.
The ban, in effect until further notice, was announced on Super Bowl eve and came about after a U.S. inspector in Mexico received a threatening, verbal message, Mexico’s Agriculture Department said, according to the Associated Press
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Avocado growers in Mexico have been the victims of drug cartel turf battles and extortion in the western state of Michoacan, the only state in Mexico fully authorized to export to the U.S. market.  Only the Hass variety of avocado can be exported. After a similar incident in 2019, the USDA warned Mexico it would suspend the program if the inspectors’ safety wasn’t guaranteed.
Jim Garrison, manager at Honey Bee La Comena on Bagley in Mexicantown, said there’s no immediate impact and that it’s too early to tell  whether the store will continue to have avocado supplies. 
But the potential of the ban is a direct hit on Mexico’s avocado industry, which reached nearly $3 billion in annual exports and the majority – 80% — headed to the U.S. as the dominant supplier. 
Any avocados that were certified and inspected before the ban, the APHIS said in an email, will continue to be imported to the U.S.
The avocados slated for the Super Bowl were never at risk as most were shipped before the ban. 
Between 1998 and 2017, per capita avocado consumption in the U.S. soared from 1.5 pounds to 7.5 pounds, according to the Avocado Institute of Mexico. 
It’s not the first time in U.S. agricultural history that avocados from Mexico have been banned. A previous ban, instituted in 1914 because of the threat of insects to U.S-grown avocados, was lifted in 1997. At that time, Michigan, 18 other states and the District of Columbia received shipments of the Hass variety of avocados from Mexico.
California does produce the Hass variety and Florida grows the Fuerte variety, a smoother skin type. While the U.S. produces certain varieties of avocados, the institute says, it can’t meet demand.
Media reports say prices could rise and shelves could become bare of the fruit known for its excellent, good-for-your-health qualities. 
Experts predict that banning the import of avocados, even for a short time, could have a substantial impact on the Michoacan area as well as prices and supply. 
Tony Payan, the director of the Center for the United States and Mexico at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, told the avocado business is a “multibillion-dollar industry” and that the way they are “grown and supplied makes the industry an easy target for criminals.” 
“There’s a lot of money to be made, and organized crime knows where the avocados are — you can’t hide a big avocado grove,” Payan told “They know who the farmers are, they know where the facilities for processing and transporting the avocados are, and they come in and threaten the farmers and the workers. … While it might have short-term benefits for consumers across Mexico — avocados could flood the market, leading to a dramatic drop in prices — avocado farmers face financial ruin.” 
Avocados are known to be high in good fat, the unsaturated kind. The fruit has plenty of vitamins and a lot of uses. They are popular mashed and spread on toast, whirled into smoothies for a creamy texture and sliced to use on sandwiches and salads.  
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Detroit Free Press food writer Susan Selasky and send food and restaurant news to: Follow @SusanMariecooks on Twitter.
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