As a result of the ban on Mexican Hass avocados, avocado prices in Costa Rica are 90% more expensive than in 2015 and there has been an increase in the smuggling of this fruit from Panama.
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According to data from the Comprehensive Agricultural Marketing Program (PIMA) of the National Center for Food Supply and Distribution (CENADA), the ban, which was adopted by the National Phytosanitary Service (SFE), under the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) in May 2015, had an almost immediate impact on the price of a 10 kilo box of avocado.
Just two months after the measure, a box of avocados on the wholesale market increased by 33.33%, from 16,000 colones -in May- to 24,000 colones in July.
Due to the lack of avocado, Costa Rica had to buy them from Chile; however, they were only able to covered 35% of the amount that Mexico shipped to the country so prices continued to increase.
During this year, price differences in imported avocados have been more drastic. In January the box of avocados was sold for 21,000 colones, 70.5% more expensive than in previous years; in February the difference was 64.1%; in March, 57.3%, and during April the box is selling at 29,000 colones, i.e. 87.5% more expensive than in previous years.
The avocados imported from Chile and the national produced avocado does not satisfy Costa Rican consumers, who constantly complain about the lack of the Mexican product in social networks.
Restaurants and hotels have reported that 20% of the avocado they have is wasted because consumers don't like it and must pay more for a product that has a lower quality and taste.
Product prices may increase in coming months as Costa Rica began importing avocado from Peru.
In addition to the high prices for shoddy avocado, the smuggling of Mexican avocados that were going to be sold to Panama has increased in Costa Rica.
Randall Benavides, president of the Chamber of Importers and Exporters of Perishables, stated that several people have offered him Mexican Hass avocado, despite the ban on this product imposed by the Costa Rican government.
Containers with Mexican avocados would be crossing Costa Rica on route to Panama, where they are received in accordance with the law and pay applicable taxes; however, the product is being smuggled into Costa Rica illegally.
Costa Rica stopped importing Mexican avocados after claiming that the country was affected by the sun blotch pest and that this represented a risk for Costa Rican crops.
"After restricting avocado imports from Mexico, transits of avocado shipments from Mexico to Panama multiplied by 100. If it is an exotic or quarantine pest, which it is not, how can we allow 10 to 12 containers to freely pass through our country, where they might be stolen or have an accident that could lead to a spread of a virus. It's just not true, "Benavides said in an interview.
According to the data from the Costa Rica's Foreign Trade Corporation (PROCOMER), consumption of Mexican avocados in Panama grew by 100% once Costa Rica restricted them. ■