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Mexico and Costa Rica to proceed with their avocado dispute

Staff Writer |
Mexico and Costa Rica haven't yet held bilateral meetings to settle the dispute on avocado trade outside the World Trade Organization.

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The official process will start this Wednesday and Thursday at the multilateral forum in Geneva, stated the Minister of foreign trade (Comex), Alexander Mora, before a consultation with the nation.

Mora is in Paris, France, to participate in an exhibition of Costa Rica before the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

"The Mexican side preferred to incorporate the technical talks in the WTO consultations process," said the minister when asked about the date of the technical meetings promised by the president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, and Costa Rica's Luis Guillermo Solis.

The two leaders met in the framework of the XVI Summit of the Tuxtla Mechanism of Dialogue and Concertation, held in San Jose at the end of March.

The idea of these bilateral technical meetings was to look for a solution to the conflict that Mexico raised to the WTO on March 8 of this year. These bilateral technical deliberations would allow suspending the WTO process.

However, due to Mexico's decision, the Mexican and Costa Rican delegations will meet on Wednesday, April 26 and Thursday, April 27, in Geneva, Switzerland, at the WTO.

The discussions will take place within the framework of the consultation period provided for all WTO trade disputes.

Costa Rica's Technical Delegation is headed by the Director of the State Phytosanitary Service (SFE), Marco Vinicio Jimenez, and the Director of Foreign Trade Comex, Marcela Chavarria, Minister Mora said.

The Hass avocado trade conflict originated on May 5, 2015, when the Costa Rican state phytosanitary service (SFE) suspended the issuance of import permits for Mexico, which is the world's largest producer and exporter of avocado, and eight other markets.

This blockade was imposed based on the alleged presence of the sun blotch virus in Mexican avocado, which could spread in the national territory.

The head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), Luis Felipe Arauz, said that the monitoring of the avocado conflict was now in Comex's jurisdiction, even though SFE technical staff will participate in the negotiations. This Service is a dependency of MAG.

According to Arauz, it's still possible that the consultation stage will lead to a technical resolution, within the WTO process, so the issue is not considered by a panel of experts.

Meanwhile, Yolanda Fernandez, president of the Costa Rica-Mexico Chamber of Industry and Commerce (Cicomex), said they didn't understand Costa Rica's actions in this conflict.

Fernandez said that, in the meantime, there's been a shortage of Hass avocado for the past two weeks. As a result, she said, consumers are forced to buy Creole avocado, which is of a different quality.

Randall Benavides, the president of the National Chamber of Exporters and Importers of Perishable Products, said there was a lack of Hass avocado in the market because Chile's supply had ended and the Peruvian avocado was delayed.

The members of this chamber were the main importers of Mexican avocado, until the closure of the market in May 2015.

Importers estimate that six weeks may elapse between the exit of one supplier and the entry of another.

The Market Intelligence System (SIM) of the National Production Council (CNP) acknowledged that the disappearance of Hass avocado from the list of suggested prices for farmer's fairs last weekend implies that there is no supply of the product.

These prices are defined based on information from wholesale markets, retail markets from San Jose, and farms.

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