(Aug. 21) In what some see as delaying an inevitable proposed rule that will open the door for Mexican avocados to be sold in all 50 states, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended a comment period for a draft pest risk an risk analysis prepared by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The previous deadline for comments had been Aug. 15.

The pest risk assessment relates to a proposed rule under consideration by the USDA that would allow the importation of hass avocados from Mexico into the entire U.S. and during all months of the year.

The USDA indicated it will consider all comments on the draft pest risk analysis that it receives on or before Sept. 15.

After being banned from the U.S. market for eight decades, a July 1997 decisionfirst opened the door for hass avocados to enter 19 Northeastern states. Currently, Mexican hass avocados from groves approved by APHIS can be shipped to 31 states from Octoberthrough April 15.

Mexican avocado exports to the U.S. topped 28,000 metric tons in 2002, up threefold from 1998. Mexico accounted for 23% of U.S. avocado imports. That tops all other suppliers except Chile, which accounted for about 65% of import volume last year.

While several California avocado marketers are big handlers and exporters of Mexican fruit, California growers have expressed concern in recent weeks about the APHIS pest risk analysis, particularly relating to the seed weevil and stem borer.

Don Fox of Florida Fresh International Inc. said in a Aug. 20 e-mail to “Friends of South Florida Agriculture” that the proposal to allow year-round access could apply further pressure to pricing dynamics and exposing domestically growing fruit to invasive pests.

The names of organizations and individuals who have commented on APHIS dockets, are available at www.aphis.usda.gov/ppd/rad/webrepor.html.