Avocado shortages, virgin margaritas: Border shutdown would hit American palates

Avocados are on display for sale at the wholesale market "Central de Abastos" in Mexico City, Mexico January 11, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 02 April 2019
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Avocado shortages, virgin margaritas: Border shutdown would hit American palates

  • Trump said on Friday that there was a “very good likelihood” he would close the border this week if Mexico did not stop immigrants from reaching the United States

NEW YORK: President Donald Trump’s threat to shut down the US-Mexico border would hit American consumers — in the gut.
From the avocados on avocado toast, to the limes and tequila in margaritas, the United States is heavily reliant on Mexican imports of fruit, vegetables and alcohol to meet consumer demand. Nearly half of all imported US vegetables and 40 percent of imported fruit are grown in Mexico, according to the latest data from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Americans would run out of avocados in three weeks if imports from Mexico were stopped, said Steve Barnard, president and chief executive of Mission Produce, the largest distributor and grower of avocados in the world.
“You couldn’t pick a worse time of year because Mexico supplies virtually 100 percent of the avocados in the US right now. California is just starting and they have a very small crop, but they’re not relevant right now and won’t be for another month or so,” said Barnard.
Trump said on Friday that there was a “very good likelihood” he would close the border this week if Mexico did not stop immigrants from reaching the United States. A complete shutdown would disrupt millions of legal border crossings in addition to asylum seekers, as well as billions of dollars in trade, about $137 billion of which is in food imports.
“When a border is closed or barriers to trade are put in place, I absolutely expect there would be an impact on consumers,” said Monica Ganley, principal at Quarterra, a consultancy specializing in Latin American agricultural issues and trade.
“We’re absolutely going to see higher prices. This is a very real and very relevant concern for American consumers.”
The effects of a shutdown would run both ways.
Mexico is the largest importer of US exports of refined fuels like diesel and gasoline, some of which moves by rail. It is unclear if rail terminals would be affected by closures.
As changing palates have increased demand for fresh produce, and a greater variety of it, the United States has increasingly come to depend on Mexico to meet that need. Imports have nearly tripled since 1999. In that period, Mexico has gone from supplying less than a third of imported produce to 44 percent today.
In addition to avocados, the majority of imported tomatoes, cucumbers, blackberries and raspberries come from Mexico. While there are other producers of these goods globally, opening those trade channels would take time, said Ganley.
Although the share prices of US supermarket chains like Walmart and Kroger did not appear affected by Friday’s announcement, food companies would ultimately feel the pain.
“We would be out of business for a while,” said Barnard.


Duterte ‘seriously considering’ cutting ties with Iceland over UN rights probe

Updated 16 July 2019
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Duterte ‘seriously considering’ cutting ties with Iceland over UN rights probe

  • Iceland spearheaded a resolution that asked the UN’s top human rights body to look into the Philippines' deadly anti-drug crackdown
  • Philippine police have killed more than 6,600 suspected drug dealers in sting operations since Duterte took office in 2016.

MANILA: The Philippine president is “seriously considering” cutting diplomatic ties with Iceland, which spearheaded a resolution that asked the UN’s top human rights body to look into the thousands of deaths of suspects under his anti-drug crackdown.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters late Monday that the Iceland-initiated resolution which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in a vote last week in Geneva showed “how the Western powers are scornful of our sovereign exercise of protecting our people from the scourge of prohibited drugs.”
Panelo says President Rodrigo Duterte “is seriously considering cutting diplomatic relations with Iceland” for initiating the “grotesquely one-sided, outrageously narrow, and maliciously partisan” resolution.
Human rights groups, however, have lauded the resolution as crucial to helping end the drug killings and bringing perpetrators to justice.
The Philippines’ highest-ranking lawmaker said on Monday a UN resolution to probe the country’s bloody war on drugs should be ignored, and its chief backer Iceland be investigated instead for human rights abuses in allowing abortion.
“They have more unborn babies that they have aborted or killed. There are more killings in abortion than the drug pushers who are fighting the police,” Senate President Vicente Sotto told ANC news channel.
The Nordic nation lacks moral grounds to lecture the Philippines on human rights, Sotto said. “So we should disregard that resolution.”
His remarks are the latest in a series of comments from lawmakers urging the government to not cooperate after the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday adopted Iceland’s resolution to investigate thousands of deaths under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drugs campaign.
Police have killed more than 6,600 suspected drug dealers in sting operations since Duterte took office in 2016. Critics and rights group said authorities summarily execute suspects, which the police deny.
“The criminals can fight back, the babies cannot. What human rights are they talking about?” Sotto said, adding that drug dealers that fight back and destroy families lose their human rights.
His comments about abortion echoed those made by incoming Senator Imee Marcos, the daughter of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Rights groups, which hailed the UN vote as a step toward accountability, point out that the bloody anti-narcotics campaign is marked by systematic cover-ups, planted evidence and impunity.
The president’s spokesman on Monday warned countries not to meddle with the state’s affairs.
“All incidents in the war on drugs are tallied, recorded. All they have to do is ask us, not to pre-judge us,” presidential spokesman Spokesman Panelo told a regular news conference. “It behoves them to render respect to a sovereign state.”
Duterte on Friday mocked Iceland as an ice-eating nation without understanding of his country’s problems.