Corn yields in 2021 will likely be about 3 million tonnes lower than the federal government is forecasting, according to the head of one of Mexico’s largest corn farmer associations.
Juan Pablo Rojas, president of the National Confederation of Corn Producers (CNPAMM), told the Reuters news agency that the production estimate of almost 27 million tonnes by the Agriculture Ministry’s SIAP statistical agency is not reliable because budget cuts have reduced its capacity to conduct field work.
“The SIAP doesn’t have a way of knowing how much is being produced, or how much will be produced, because it doesn’t have the technical personnel that can verify the information,” he said.
Rojas predicted that corn production this year will be no more than 24 million tonnes. The CNPAMM chief said the government’s direct cash payment program that benefits more than 2 million small plot farmers, most of whom grow grains, is unlikely to lead to larger yields despite official claims that it would.
Farmers can receive up to 8,000 pesos (US $386) a year from the program’s 13.5-billion-peso (US $651.6 million) annual budget but Rojas said the amount is insufficient to boost production.
“You’re not making the land more productive with 8,000 pesos per year,” he said, adding that the payments can be used for any expense and are therefore more akin to social spending designed to increase political support for the government, which has made welfare programs a central part of its agenda.
Rojas also noted that the government’s plan to phase out use of the controversial herbicide glyphosate is likely to increase farmers’ costs.
Reuters reported that the Agriculture Ministry declined to comment on the CNPAMM president’s assertions due to their “lack of any substance.”
The ministry defended SIAP, describing it, according to Reuters, as “an accredited institution that performs essential work in the design and operation of public policies and decision-making across domestic farm supply chains.”
SIAP forecast in late February that corn production in 2021 would be 26.9 million tonnes, a reduction of about 2% from 2020 levels.
Even if that forecast were to come true, Mexico would still be moving away from, rather than toward, President López Obrador’s goal of making the country’s self-sufficient in corn by 2024.
Although the SIAP is forecasting slightly lower corn production this year, the president claimed this month that output was on the rise.
“The production of corn is growing because corn farmers are being supported,” López Obrador said.
However, drought – currently affecting about four-fifths of the country – is a major threat to farmers’ capacity to produce food, let alone boost production levels.
The CCI farmers association warned this week that low water levels in 16 dams used for agricultural purposes will limit corn production and force Mexico to increase imports of the grain.
“The low availability of water will result in a reduction in agricultural production,” said CCI president José Amadeo Hernández.
He estimated that Mexico will need to import 16.5 million tonnes of corn this year, which would represent a 9.1% increase over 2020 levels.
Hernández said that farmers in the north of Sinaloa will have to reduce the area on which they plant corn and sorghum. He also noted that farmers in Guanajuato and México state face severe drought conditions.
The 16 main agricultural dams, located in seven states, are currently only 33.7% full on average, Hernández said, adding that the level is a reduction of 51.7% compared to a year ago.