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Wednesday June 5, 2024


Avocado and Food Trade Disputes: Challenges in the International Avocado Market


The avocado, often referred to as “green gold,” has become a staple in many households worldwide. Its creamy texture, rich flavour, and numerous health benefits have contributed to its popularity. However, behind the scenes, trade disputes impact the global avocado market. In this blog, we’ll explore some of these disputes and their real-world implications.

Avocado and Food Trade Disputes

Source: Pexels

The Mexico-Costa Rica Dispute


Costa Rica imposed restrictions on importing fresh avocados from Mexico due to concerns about the avocado sunblotch viroid, a plant pathogen that can severely affect avocado trees. This viroid can lead to reduced fruit quality, yield losses, and even tree death, prompting countries to take measures to prevent its spread.

Costa Rica’s Concerns

After conducting a risk assessment, Costa Rica determined that the viroid posed a significant threat to its avocado industry. Consequently, they implemented measures to prevent the introduction of infected avocados from Mexico.

Mexico’s Perspective

Mexico, a major exporter of avocados, viewed these restrictions as a trade barrier. In response, Mexico filed a complaint against Costa Rica at the World Trade Organization (WTO), arguing that the restrictions violated international trade rules.

WTO Involvement

The WTO provides a framework for resolving trade disputes between member countries. A panel examined the case and ruled in favour of Mexico, finding that Costa Rica’s restrictions were not based on scientific evidence and were inconsistent with WTO agreements.


This dispute underscores the importance of adhering to international trade rules and ensuring that trade measures are based on scientific evidence. Balancing trade facilitation with plant health protection is crucial for maintaining fair trade practices.

WTO Dispute Process


The WTO serves as a crucial platform for resolving trade disputes. However, in recent years, the WTO has faced significant challenges, particularly related to its appellate body. The appellate body, responsible for reviewing panel decisions and ensuring consistency in interpreting WTO agreements, has been in crisis due to a lack of adjudicators. This crisis began when the United States blocked the appointment of new members, leading to insufficient adjudicators to handle cases.

Impact on Dispute Resolution

The lack of a functioning appellate body has slowed down the dispute resolution process, leaving cases in limbo and affecting countries’ ability to seek justice and resolve trade disputes effectively.

Alternative Solutions

Recognizing the urgency of addressing this crisis, some alternative mechanisms have emerged. The European Union’s Multi-Party Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement (MPIA) is one such solution. The MPIA allows participating countries to maintain an appellate review system even when the WTO appellate body is not operational, using arbitration panels composed of former appellate body members.

Broader Reforms Needed

While the MPIA provides a temporary fix, broader reforms within the WTO are necessary to ensure a fully functional and effective dispute settlement system. Countries must work collaboratively to find a sustainable solution that restores confidence in the WTO’s dispute resolution mechanisms.

Political Factors

The US-Mexico Border and Avocado Trade

The avocado trade is not immune to political tensions and border-related issues. The United States imports a significant amount of avocados from Mexico, its largest supplier. However, the US-Mexico border is also a hotspot for political discussions and tensions, impacting trade relations.

Border Security and Immigration

Disputes over border security and immigration policies between the United States and Mexico can spill over into trade relations, affecting the avocado trade. During periods of heightened border tensions, there have been instances where the avocado trade faced challenges such as delays at border checkpoints, increased scrutiny, or temporary disruptions in transportation.

Balancing Act

Governments must strike a delicate balance between ensuring border security and maintaining smooth trade flows. Cooperation and pragmatic solutions are essential to sustaining the avocado trade, a vital part of both economies.


The avocado trade is more complex than it appears on grocery store shelves. Disputes between countries impact supply chains, livelihoods, and consumer access to this beloved fruit. As we navigate these challenges, finding effective solutions and maintaining fair trade practices remain critical. Next time you savour that creamy avocado, remember that it’s more than just fruit—it’s a symbol of international relations and cooperation.