(Nov. 30) Starting Jan. 31, there will be a new avocado market in the U.S.

On Nov. 30, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a final rule that will amend the agency’s regulations to allow year-round imports of Mexican avocados into all states except California, Florida and Hawaii. The rule is effective 60 days from the date it is published, or Jan. 31.

After two years — provided there are no problems with the new import regulations — the USDA said Mexican avocados will be given access to those states, too.

Tom Bellamore, senior vice president of the California Avocado Commission, Irvine, said the California avocado industry is pleased the USDA put in place a two-year exclusion for producing states.

“That will ensure domestic avocado growers are not placed at risk while an expanded export program is tested,” he said.

Bellamore said growers continue to have serious concerns about a pest infestation, and some doubt whether the expanded program will work. He said there has been no discussion of a legal challenge to the rule.

The rule making for Mexican avocados has attracted much interest.

In fact, Melissa O’Dell, spokeswoman for the USDA, said the agency received more than 17,000 e-mail or postal comments on the proposed rule, published May 24.

“This confirms the decision (to let Mexican avocados) into the entire country was based on scientific evidence,” said Dale McNiel, Washington, D.C.-based counsel for Mexican avocado growers, packers and exporters. “(The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) has done a great job in moving it forward,” he said.

Long term, Bellamore said year-round availability of Mexican hass avocados in the U.S. will change the avocado industry in the U.S.

“It is difficult if not impossible to determine how suppliers will adjust,” he said.

Bellamore said the emphasis now should be on effective marketing of larger avocado supplies.

In its economic analysis of the rule, the USDA said U.S. avocado consumption should increase 9%, with quantities supplied by California and Chile declining by 7.3% and 10.3%, respectively.

Meanwhile, Mexican avocado exports to the U.S. are projected to increase to 2.6 times their initial level, from 58 million pounds to 154 million pounds.