The viability of the new government’s plan to increase production of corn and other key foodstuffs to achieve domestic self-sufficiency has been called into question by agricultural experts.
Mexico’s corn imports from the United States more than doubled between 2013 and 2017 and to counter that president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador wants to boost production by 15 million tonnes by the end of its six-year term.
It is also seeking to increase yields of beans, rice and wheat among other crops.
But Francisco Mayorga, who served as agriculture secretary during the presidencies of Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón, believes there is not enough land or water for the next administration to meet its goals, particularly with regard to corn.
“I don’t see it as viable because we don’t have enough of the resources that are needed. We don’t have unused land that is available [and] we don’t have water available so we would have to reduce or eliminate other crops and it’s not always possible to substitute one crop with another,” he said.
“There are climatic reasons, reasons [related to] the culture of the producers, topography, logistics . . . That objective would be impractical, especially for yellow corn,” Mayorga added.
Lorena Delgado, president of a national livestock feed industry association, agrees.
“Food self-sufficiency isn’t viable, not even from the point of view of land, it’s not enough, we’re limited in arable land,” she said.
Laura Tamayo, a communications vice-president at the National Agricultural Council, highlighted the logistical challenges of achieving food and fodder self-sufficiency, explaining that it is much cheaper for a pork producer in Yucatán to buy animal feed that arrives by boat from Alabama than to purchase the same grains transported by train or truck from Sinaloa.
While the incoming government explores ways to boost production to feed Mexicans, small native maize producers in coastal Oaxaca are hoping to send more of their product into a niche market north of the border.
José Esteban Sotelo Mariche, a representative of the company Integradora Agroempresarial del Río Verde, which represents 600 small corn producers, told the news website NVI Noticias that this year the aim is to export 250 tonnes of native corn to the United States, up from 150 tonnes last year.
The maíz oaxaqueño that reaches the U.S. market, including blue, red and black varieties, is mostly used by gourmet restaurants.