The first-ever shipment of avocados from Colombia to the U.S. was smeared by another scandal involving the company in the Paradise Paper tax evasion scandal.
One of the main companies in the import, Fruty Green, part of the Grupo Cartama umbrella company, is led by a former Minister of Defense in Colombia. Jorge Alberto Uribe Echavarria appears as one of the politicians in the country to evade taxes through offshore accounts.
Uribe Echavarria was appointed to the government of Alvaro Uribe Velez from 2003 through 2005. He also led several attacks against the FARC and was a strong opposition figure against the peace process in Colombia.
The former official was accused of having ties with drug trafficking networks. He denied allegations by the Miami New Herald of a relationship with a woman who was detained for drug dealing in Medellin.
He did say he knew the woman for the past ten years but was unaware of any illegal activities.
"In a single opportunity, at the beginning of 2003, seven months before my possession as Minister of Defense, I visited her in the prison of Buen Pastor de Medellín," Uribe said at the time.
California-based Mission Produce imported for the first time Colombian avocados into the United States, according to a report by The Packer.
"Our partnership with Cartama in Colombia has been in the works for a number of years, and when this opportunity finally came to fruition, we were ready.”
The avocados, which were grown and packed at Cartama’s facility in Pereira, Colombia, left Port of Cartagena on Friday and arrived on Sunday.
“Being the first to import Colombian fruit to the U.S. reinforces Mission’s global footprint and leadership in the avocado category,” senior vice president of global sourcing, Jim Donovan, stated in a news release.
Brent Scattini, Mission’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing, indicated that there is strong interest in Colombian avocados.
“Since the announcement about Colombia being allowed into the U.S., we’ve had customers asking about it, and several wanting to be the first to receive the fruit. We expect volume to build throughout the season, as well as in years to come. Having an additional source, another option, is good for our customer base.”
“ICA is Colombia’s agriculture and food safety authority, and has been instrumental in developing the phytosanitary requirements for export to the U.S.,” said Cartama’s CEO Ricardo Uribe.
A ceremony to mark the export was attended by Colombian avocado growers and packers, plant health officials, Colombian Secretary of Agriculture Juan Guillermo Zuluaga.