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First Sunday Without Commercial Inspections Comes Amid Peak Nogales Produce Import Season

Last week’s announcement that there will be no Sunday commercial port inspections in Nogales comes amid the peak of the produce import season. In April of last year, 865 million pounds of produce passed through the Nogales commercial port of entry, the second highest figure that year and more than 14% of the year’s total, according to USDA figures reviewed by KJZZ.

For years the local produce import industry has been able to count on Sunday inspections during the peak season, which helps things run more smoothly the rest of the week. But this Sunday will be the first without that service, as Customs and Border Protection Officers head elsewhere to help process immigrants.

“To put it in simple terms, it’s a pressure relief,” said Guillermo Valencia, head of the port authority in Nogales. “And If you don't relieve pressure, it just keeps backing up, backing up, backing up, backing up, until it just fails, right?

He hopes the service returns quickly, but has not received any word on how long the suspension will last.

Losing a day of imports complicates the entire produce supply chain, from the fields to the grocery stores, according to Valencia. If there is a lengthy suspension of Sunday service, some companies may look to other ports along the border to cross their goods.

But they may not find greener pastures elsewhere. Dante Galeazzi, president and CEO of the Texas International Produce Association, says ports of entry near McAllen, Texas — another major Mexican produce importing region — are also losing significant staffing.

“Capacity is the biggest challenge that were going to have , especially in South Texas,” he said.

While Galeazzi had not heard of Sunday inspections being cut locally, fewer officers overall will mean longer waits and higher costs for anyone looking to import goods from Mexico.

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Murphy Woodhouse was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2018 to 2023.