Sunday, June 23, 2024

Domestic corn production falls short of demand

Mexico’s corn production is expected to close the year at 27.3 million metric tons (tonnes), 38% below what is needed to meet domestic demand, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, which said that Mexico will import 16.6 million tonnes of yellow corn in order to meet its total 2022 demand of 44 million tonnes.

The projection is slightly lower than Mexico’s 2021 corn production, according to data from the government agency the Agri-Food and Fisheries Information Service (SIAP), which recorded last year’s production at 27.5 million tonnes. But Agriculture Minister Villalobos also said that the figure doesn’t include an expected additional 2 million tonnes of corn production by the end of the year, due to the results of two government subsidy programs to farmers. 

“We are going to reach approximately 30 million tons [in total],” Villalobos said at a press conference Tuesday. “We are anticipating an increase of 2 million additional tons, largely thanks to the fertilizer program and Sembrando Vida.” 

Villalobos was referring to a recently announced pilot program to deliver fertilizer free of charge to commercial corn producers in Sinaloa, with the objective being to increase national production. Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life) is one of President López Obrador’s key social programs that since 2019 has provided farmers with financial support to grow crops like corn, beans and nopal cactus alongside fruit trees. 

Mexican cattle farmer
Mexico’s biggest corn production deficit is in feed corn for the agriculture sector, which gets two-thirds of the corn it needs from non-Mexican sources. (Photo: Government of Mexico)

Juan Carlos Anaya, the general director of the agricultural consulting consortium Grupo Consultor de Mercados Agrícola (GCMA), is predicting a somewhat less optimistic output. He expects Mexico’s 2022 corn production to be around 26.9 million tonnes and said that Mexico is facing a corn production deficit.  

“Production is not keeping pace with what the country requires for consumption,” he said. 

Anaya said that domestic corn production has only grown at a moderate pace in recent years, while domestic demand has surged. This is particularly true in the livestock sector, which depends on imported yellow corn for cattle feed, much of which is genetically modified (GM) corn. 

Further complicating matters is the decree President López Obrador published in 2020, pledging to phase out genetically modified (GM) yellow corn imports by 2024 due to what he alleges are adverse health impacts. He also argues that GM corn varieties can contaminate the country’s native white corn varieties. 

Critics of the ban claim that there is no scientific evidence to support that GM corn has negative health impacts and note that the ban could lead to food shortages. 

Mexican corn
The stated objectives of President López Obrador’s GM corn import ban is to protect the health of Mexicans and avoid cross-pollination between GM corn and Mexican white corn varieties. Critics say his concerns are unfounded. (Photo: Depositphotos.com)

The U.S. government threatened to take action under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) if the ban on GM corn is not repealed. However, the debate was temporarily tabled after the U.S. and Mexican governments agreed to postpone the ban until 2025. The U.S. is a major supplier of yellow corn to Mexico’s agricultural sector.

If Mexico has yet to achieve self-sufficiency by that time, the federal government will consider issuing a new decree, Mexican officials said.

“Our counterparts in the United States have considered this response satisfactory. We have delivered a document to be discussed, possibly during the second half of January, where the issue will definitely be resolved,” Villalobos said at a press conference on Dec. 20. 

With reports from Reforma and El País

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