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U.S. temporarily suspends Mexican avocado imports

Feb. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture suspended imports of avocados from Mexico just one day before a commercial for them was set to air during the Super Bowl.

The imports were paused "until further notice" after an inspector for the USDA at a plant in the state of Michoacán received a threatening call to his cell phone, Mexico's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said in a statement.

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Michoacán, the largest producer of avocados in the world, has been a haven for drug trafficking cartels who have extorted farmers causing thousands to flee their homes.

Mexican officials said that the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is investigating to assess the level of threat to its workers.

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"In the last six weeks, avocado producers from Michoacán have exported more than 135,000 tons of avocado to the United States through more than 5,000 shipments of fresh fruit," the statement reads.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico said in a statement that it was working with the office of Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to "guarantee security conditions that allow our personnel in Michoacán to resume operations."

"Facilitating the export of Mexican avocados to and ensuring the safety of our agricultural inspection teams go hand-in-hand," the statement reads.

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The import block came before Avocados From Mexico, the joint marketing group in the United States for the Mexican Hass Avocados Importers Association and the Association of Growers and Packers of Avocados From Mexico, was scheduled to air a commercial for avocados during the Super Bowl.

Americans eat more than 1.7 billion pounds of avocados from Mexico each year, particularly in guacamole during events and holidays like the Super Bowl, according to Avocados From Mexico.

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