SANTA ANA ZEROSTO, Mexico (AP) — It’s been a long. And sometimes dangerous journey for avocados destined for guacamole on tables. And tailgates across the United States during the Super Bowl.
It begins in a village like Santa Ana Zerosto high in the misty.
Pine-covered mountains of the western Mexican state of Michoacán. The roads are so dangerous — beset by drug cartels, common criminals, and extortion. And kidnapping gangs — that state police provide escorts for trucks brave enough to face. The 40-mile (60-kilometer) trip to the city’s packing and shipping plant. Urupaner
Truck driver Jesús Quintero starts early in the morning. Collecting crates of avocados picked from orchards around Santa Ana. Before transporting them to the weighing station. He then joined other trucks waiting for a convoy of blue. And-white state police trucks — they had recently changed. Their name to Civil Guard — to start their journey to Urupan.
“Now the patrol trucks with us are more peaceful. Because it’s a very dangerous area,” Quintero said as he waited for the convoy to leave.
With hundreds of 22-pound (10-kilogram) crates of the dark green fruit in his 10-ton truck. Quintero’s load represented a small fortune in these parts. Avocados sell for $2.50 a piece in the United States. So a crate containing 40 is worth $100, while an average truckload is worth $80,000 to $100,000.
Mexico supplies about 92% of US avocado imports, sending $3 billion worth of fruit north each year.
But it’s often not the load that gets stolen.
“They would take our truck and fruit, sometimes they would even take the truck,” Quintero said. “They used to steal two or three trucks a day in this area.”
It happened to him a few years ago. “We were coming down a dirt road and two young men came out and they took our truck and tied us up.”
Such thefts have “declined a lot” since police escorts began, Quintero said. “They’ve had one or two thefts every week, but it’s not like every day.”
State police officer Jorge Gonzalez said the convoys take about 40 trucks a day. Ensuring that about 300 tons of avocados reach the packing plant each day.
“These operations have been able to reduce the (robbery) rate by about 90 to 95 percent,” Gonzalez said. “We go with them to the packing house, so they can get their trucks in without any problems.”
Grower Jose Evaristo Valencia is happy that he doesn’t have to worry about whether. His tended avocados will make it to the packing house. Packers depend on the arrangements they have made with local orchards to fulfill promised shipments. And lost avocados can mean lost customers.
“The main people affected are the producers,” Valencia said. “People are losing three-four trucks a day. There have been a lot of robberies between the plantations and packing houses.”
Police escorts “helped us a lot,” he said.
Once the avocado reaches Urupan or the neighboring town of Tansitaro. The self-proclaimed avocado capital of the world. That greets visitors with a giant cement avocado – the route north is somewhat safer.
Sending avocados north for Super Bowl season has become an annual event. This year celebrated in Urupan. It’s a welcome diversion from the drumbeat of crime in the city. Which is being fought by the Viagras and Jalisco cartels.
On January 17, Michoacán Governor Alfredo Ramírez Bedola began. The first Super Bowl avocado shipment by “kicking,” , kicking a football through. The small goal posts on a simulated football field.
Behind him, a huge sign on a large tractor trailer read “Let’s Go! Super Bowl 2023.”
It was an attempt by Michoacan growers to reverse last year’s disaster. When the U.S. government suspended fruit inspections in February before the 2022 Super Bowl.
Inspections were halted for about 10 days after threats were made to a US inspector in Michoacán. Where farmers are extorted by drug cartels. Some Michoacan packers were reportedly buying avocados from other, non-certified states. And trying to pass them off as coming from Michoacan. And were angry that US inspectors would not go along with them.
US agricultural inspectors must certify. That Mexican avocados do not carry diseases or pests that could damage US orchards. The Mexican harvest runs from January to March. While avocado production in the US runs from April to September.
Exports resumed after Mexico and the United States. Agreed to put in place “measures that ensure the safety” of inspectors.
“This season we are going to restore the confidence of producers, farmers and consumers. By increasing export production. We expect to ship 130,000 tonnes this season,” the governor said.
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