Agriculture Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner recently announced shipments of Hass avocados from California have started arriving in Mexico. This follows an agreement which was signed by U.S. and Mexican officials in September 2005 to allow the importation of Hass avocados from California.

”Mexico’s decision to open its market to Hass avocados from California is great news for our growers,” said Conner. “This action demonstrates Mexico’s commitment to trade based on internationally accepted scientific standards for plant health.”

Under the protocol negotiated by USDA, Mexico will import Hass avocados from certain California counties from packinghouses registered to export under the conditions of the agreement. The avocados must be free of stems, leaves and other plant parts and placed in properly marked boxes. Among other requirements, a phytosanitary certificate verifying compliance of packing and shipping specifications must also accompany the avocados.

Officials with USDA, Mexico’s Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA), the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Avocado Commission visited the approved production areas and packinghouses in February 2006. The California facilities were found to be in compliance with all requirements stipulated in the protocol.

For the first 12 months following the signing of the protocol, avocados originating in California may be distributed in all Mexican states except Michoacan, Jaliso, Morelos, Puebla and Nayarit. During this time, SAGARPA will carry out an evaluation and an assessment of the program with the cooperation of USDA and industry. After 12 months, Hass avocados may be distributed to all Mexican states.

USDA has sought access for California avocados to Mexico since 1999. Industry estimates that this agreement will result in a $6 million to $24-million gain for the California avocado industry.