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Safety: Key Priority for the Avocado Industry

By Jose Armando López Orduña - Association of Avocado Exporting Producers and Packers of Mexico — APEAM


By José Armando Lopez Orduña | CEO - Wed, 03/01/2023 - 14:00

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For all production chains, there are fundamental pillars when supporting industries. In the case of the avocado industry, safety is one of those pillars, since food safety is essential both for avocado exports and for national consumption. 

In that sense, the Association of Avocado Exporting Producers and Packers of Mexico (APEAM A.C.) has focused since its creation on offering a top-quality product, not only in flavor but in safety and traceability, to maintain a healthy industry. According to official data, avocado production in Mexico represents 70,000 direct jobs and 300,000 indirect positions, which indicates an essential economic contribution to the communities of the avocado strip; therefore, maintaining stability is paramount. 

To achieve this goal, APEAM adheres to the Binational Work Plan, developed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Service for Agrifood Health, Safety and Quality (SENASICA) of Mexico. This guide allows them to reinforce the objectives of the Export Plan with transparency so that all the product that arrives in the US meets the necessary characteristics to maintain social welfare through food. 

Mexico is one of the most important avocado producers worldwide, with production increasing year after year, and the US is its largest consumer. However, the neighboring country only allows the importation of avocados from the states of Michoacan and Jalisco as they comply with the necessary health protocols. Other countries, including France, Canada, Japan, and China, also accept Mexican avocados based on compliance with food safety regulations. 

However, it wasn't always like that. In 1914, the US prohibited the importation of Mexican avocados because of pests. But in 1997, the creation of APEAM promoted the return of Mexican avocados to US territory by being a facilitator for the approval of Hass avocado imports. This approval is established under certain commitments and phytosanitary requirements for the control of quarantine pests. 

Since then, APEAM has maintained a constant pace of research that continues to lead to processes designed to face the challenges presented by the food industry — and the avocado industry in particular — in terms of safety. This is intended to maintain the leadership and competitiveness of the producing and packing sectors, and to anticipate problems in orchards and packaging. 

This is achieved through a traceability system that allows food to be tracked at all stages of production, from planting to processing, and to have visibility of the chemical and biological products used, to withdraw from the market the food that does not comply with safety standards and to take timely action in health emergencies. The traceability of the APEAM A.C. traces the path of the avocado from its origin in the orchard to its destination in the US through controls and verifications that guarantee its follow-up. 

The processes also focus on training producers and packers to minimize threats, such as pests or other organisms that can damage the avocado and the crop, thus preventing the

export of infected or bad fruit. It is worth mentioning that the processes do not only include eliminating pests but doing so safely and efficiently since the indiscriminate use of pesticides and agrochemicals can also threaten safety. 

Within this framework, on April 15, 2014, the preliminary sampling agreement for pesticide residues was presented, which is mandatory for exports to Japan, but applied to the avocado export program to the US. On June 18 of that same year, a permanent monitoring program for pesticide residues was implemented. 

For 20 years, APEAM has also had a project of recommended pesticides that provides its associates with information on the pesticides authorized for cultivation; each of these products is validated for its compliance with the requirements of the national legislation and the countries of export. Access to information on these products is free through the association's website, which ensures transparency. 

Every year, 442 tons of agrochemical containers are generated and APEAM has a series of guidelines for their correct disposal. Mexican avocado producers strive every day to reduce the use of chemical pesticides and instead, turn to more sustainable practices in their crops to improve their agricultural practices. 

To reinforce this commitment, APEAM subscribes to the Campo Limpio Amocali Civil Association program, with actions such as the use of sanitary products included in the list of products authorized by APEAM for avocado cultivation; the triple washing of empty agrochemical containers and their storage in safe spaces, the use of measuring instruments, and the recycling, processing or incineration of containers. 

Safety is key to guarantee not only the quality of the avocado but also the possibility of it continuing to reach other countries. Thanks to all these processes, APEAM has exported Mexican avocados for 25 consecutive years without phytosanitary or safety problems. Caring for the health of the consumer and the environment is the backbone of the entire production process and will continue to be so as long as this model is replicated in other avocado-producing states in Mexico.

Photo by:   Jose Armando López Orduña

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