( File photo )

Days after threatening to close the U.S.-Mexico border to halt illegal crossings, President Trump pledged to back off the plan for a year to allow Mexico to stem the flow.

The president’s March 30 tweets kicked off concerns among businesses that rely on cross-border trade, including the fresh produce industry.

“Even the threat of closing the border is a detrimental action that impacts the entire produce and floral supply chain in both countries as well as consumers,” according to an April 3 statement from the Produce Marketing Association. 

“A break in trade at the border would cause a major disruption in the complex North American supply chain, which could result in limited or no choices for certain produce and floral products and, ultimately, higher prices for consumers.”

The potential effect on avocados became a common theme in international media coverage and social media posts on how a closed border would affect consumers.

Mexican avocado f.o.b.s rose sharply in the days following Trump’s threat — with reports of a 34% hike on April 2 being the sharpest spike in a decade — and analysts speculating avocado and imported vegetable prices from Mexico would continue to rise exponentially in the event of a border closure.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on April 2 reported two-layer cartons of hass avocados crossing through Texas, sizes 32-60, were mostly $56.25-62.25, and cartons crossing at California were $55.25-62.25.

Jim Donovan, senior vice president of global sourcing for Mission Produce, Oxnard, Calif., cautioned against blaming the president on the price hike, even though prices doubled in two weeks. In fact, the price swing was not related to border debate, he said.

“It is pure supply and demand imbalance,” Donovan said April 3. “We are in the last quarter of the Mexican season and we naturally see a decline in available supply from Mexico in April-June. Normally California is harvesting by now in decent volume to fill the gap of weekly volume on a declining Mexican supply. ... As of today, things are calming down and should stabilize soon.”

Even so, Donovan said Mexican exporters and U.S. importers were considering contingency plans, such as shipping produce by boat to California or East Coast ports.

“I think all sides are taking the threat seriously, but in reality, to close the border would create a domino effect with USA and Mexican businesses of all types, not only fresh produce,” he said.

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