Grain Imports Soar

With each passing year, more of Mexico’s daily diet comes from imported foodstuffs.  According to the Mexican Agricultural Market Consulting Group, the value of grain and oleoresin imports jumped 27.2 percent from January to November 2012, reaching almost 10 billion dollars, in comparison with the same time period in 2011. Data from the federal agricultural and economy secretariats show that grain and oleoresin imports amounted to 27.36 tons in the 11-month period of 2012 examined.

The biggest product import increases in the categories studied were in staple beans, which  surged  134.2 percent , and oats,  which shot up 140.3 percent.  Other high-demand food commodities included corn, wheat, soya and canola.  Coming from increasingly genetically-modified crops, the consumption of these foreign-sourced  products  signals  not only a fundamental change in food  origin for Mexicans, but the very character of the product as well.

Statistics compiled by the official Bank of Mexico reported  a huge rise in the value of corn imports from 2006 to 2012, as measured during the January-November time frame.  While $894.26 million in corn was imported in 2006, the same commodity fetched nearly $2.9 billion in the Mexican market last year.  Affected by the U.S. drought, Mexico turned to non-traditional sources to compensate for its maize deficit.  The Secretariat of the Economy disclosed, for instance, that imports of South African-produced corn increased 25.12 percent.

The leap in corn imports was criticized by Carlos Salazar, president of the National Confederation of Corn Producers of Mexico.  Salazar said the 2008 international food crisis, the 2011 Sinaloa freeze and the Mexican drought all prompted the administration of former President Felipe Calderon to rev up the flow of imports, but to the detriment of domestic producers who were then paid less than the cost of imported corn.

“The authorization of tariff-free imports gave a pretext to open the corn market to countries where we have no free trade agreement,” Salazar said. “It  filled the inventories of the big companies that buy and market white corn and made the sale of the grain difficult for national producers.”

Source: Reforma, January 25, 2013.  Article by Monserrat Bosque.

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