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Ana De Ita*: Whoever finds food self-sufficiency will give it back


not government goals of López Obrador is food self-sufficiency. Within the framework of the increase in corn imports at the end of the Peña Nieto government, which reached a record figure of 17 million tons, the new administration expressly proposed to reduce its imports and achieve food self-sufficiency in the grain. The goal of the Ministry of Agriculture (Sader) is still to reduce corn imports by 50 percent by 2024.

But right in the middle of the six-year term, at the end of 2021, corn imports are expected to reach a new record of between 17.6 and 18 million tons, reported by the Agricultural Markets Consulting Group . This fact turns into smoke the pretensions of achieving food self-sufficiency, although it remains as a discourse.

Without yet having the data for the closing of the spring-summer 2021 harvest, which are being collected in various regions of the country, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that the annual production of corn will amount to 27.6 million tons, figure very far from Sader’s goal of producing 28.8 million tons for that year.

Due to the increase in international prices, corn imports cost the country 5 thousand 52 million dollars, 82 percent more than what was paid in 2020. Corn absorbed a third of the value of grain imports and 26 percent of the value of total agricultural exports.

The agricultural trade balance still remains in surplus, although lower than that recorded in previous years, due to the increase in Mexican exports of fruit and vegetables. In 2021, foreign exchange generated by avocado exports grew 43 percent compared to the previous year; those of melon, watermelon and papaya increased 36 percent; coffee 25 percent, strawberries 22 percent and tomato 12 percent (

These numbers tell us about the current agricultural model in the country defined and promoted since the implementation of the old North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.

According to this model, Mexico should specialize and promote agro-export crops, such as those mentioned above, which despite the extremely high environmental and social costs caused by the grabbing of land, water, use of agrochemicals, environmental pollution, labor exploitation, destruction of the social fabric, earn the country the foreign currency to import the growing amounts of corn and basic grains, which are demanded not only by the population, but also by the transnational companies that produce industrialized food, the pork, beef and chicken factories, which can be destined for the market. domestic, but also for export. Many of these agribusinesses use the country as an export platform while monopolizing natural resources and taking advantage of the lack of environmental and labor regulations.

Thus, the proposal for food self-sufficiency shows its infeasibility in an open economy such as Mexico’s and with a reinforced international trade agreement, the Mexico-United States-Canada Agreement (TMEC).

In the field of public policies, Sader proposed self-sufficiency based on support for the production of small and medium producers and eliminating subsidies to large ones. But her definition of what she considers small and medium farmers is very restrictive and confusing. Her Production for Welfare program excludes any corn producer who has more than 5 irrigated hectares or 20 rainfed hectares. Many ejidatarios in the northwest of the country were endowed with 20 hectares of irrigation, since deserts without water cannot produce. This is the case of many ejidatarios in Sinaloa, which is also the main corn-producing state.

The Guarantee Prices Program only supports producers with less than 5 hectares of rainfed land and 20 tons of corn with the purchase of corn. To the rest of the producers up to 50 hectares or 600 tons, rainfed or irrigated. It supports them with resources for risk management instruments.

With the patchwork statistics that exist in Mexico, it is only possible to know that Production for Welfare supported about 1.5 million maize farmers, with 4.4 million hectares planted, of the 7.3 million total hectares, and that they produce around 30 percent of corn production.

The guaranteed prices for maize supported only 3 percent of the maize farmers and 2.5 percent of the volume produced. While the support to manage the risk to the medium farmers supported only 2 percent of the producers and 15 percent of the volume of corn produced.

With an open market and these meager supports, food self-sufficiency will continue to be lost.

*Director of the Center for Studies for Change in the Mexican Countryside

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