Fresh produce organizations and Mexican truckers called on Texas Governor Gregg Abbott to suspend the tightening of inspections of trucks transporting fresh produce from Mexico. The measure is causing excessive delays in crossing trucks through U.S. ports of entry. In protest, Mexican truckers blocked access to the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge and the Zaragoza Bridge leading from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, to El Paso, Texas, for several hours.
Governor Abbott ordered the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) on April 6 to immediately begin intensifying safety inspections of Mexican trucks in response to the Biden administration’s plans to end pandemic-related restrictions at the border.
According to the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA), over 9 billion dollars’ worth of produce is traded through Texas, but unfortunately, the recent rule “Texas Border Truck Inspection Enforcement Action” has severely impacted the economy of Texas and the livelihood of thousands of workers.
The association sent a letter to the Texas governor explaining the severe economic consequences of the new rule, which they consider repetitive since this inspection work is performed by Customs and Border Patrol agents.
“Texas has some of the most secure Commercial Ports of Entry anywhere along the U.S. border. Officers use sophisticated technology to see through the trailers, catch illicit cargo, and prevent human smuggling,” said FPAA President Lance Jungmeyer.
“For the sake of the many American families and especially those in Texas who are counting on healthful fresh fruits and vegetables for the Easter Holiday, and on behalf of Texas businesses who not only are employers but also keep the economy of the state going, we ask you to reconsider the state Department of Public Safety inspections of fresh produce trucks occurring in Texas ports of entry,” the FPAA stated in the letter to the Texas governor.
The Texas Tribune reported that, on Monday, with trucks backed up for miles in Reynosa for the fifth day in a row, some produce importers in Texas said they have waited days for their goods to arrive and already had buyers cancel orders.
In turn, Al Día Dallas newspaper indicated that truckers complained about the delays caused by the inspections because of their losses. “There are colleagues who took up to three days to drop off a load and return,” said one of the affected drivers, “apart from what you earn, you spend on food.”
Food shortages will increase as Easter approaches, warned the FPAA in its letter to Governor Abbott. “Trucks are running out of diesel fuel to run refrigerated units on the trailers, resulting in catastrophic damage to highly perishable fresh fruits and vegetables. This means that even when a truck is able to cross the border eventually, the product could be damaged significantly.”
If DPS inspections were to stop today, FPAA asserts, it would take more than a week for the supply chain to return to normal. “Unfortunately, inventory loss, freshness, and sales will never be recovered. These losses are a direct economic loss to Texas companies and lost sales to their customers around North America.”
The FPAA said it is advising all of its members to divert all shipments, when possible, to border crossings without these uncertain delays that are damaging supply chains.