Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Prepare for the worst: corn supplies may have serious repercussions for Mexico

Back in the late 1980s and leading up to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the PYMES (small and medium size companies) did not understand the effects of the opening of the Mexican economy to foreign investment.

My two Mexican partners and I attended a conference where the speaker kept repeating, “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” We followed the advice and survived, but many in the middle class did not and soon found themselves facing bankruptcy.

Today Mexico is facing the same problem and those most affected are the 47% (AMLO’s latest figures) of those living below the poverty line and are paying no attention. The key word is corn. To summarize: The four largest exporting countries of corn are the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and Ukraine. The second largest importer of corn in the world is Mexico, where the product is the most important food staple for the making of tortillas.

They are also not aware that parts of the Midwest of the United States where corn is harvested have been suffering from drought, nor are they aware that President Biden insists that the growers of corn turn this into ethanol as a substitute in light of growing gasoline prices.

The poor may be aware that there is a war going on between Russia and Ukraine but have no idea that globally this has affected the supply of corn in the world.

Those Mexicans living below the poverty line, what the sociologist Oscar Lewis called “The Culture Of Poverty” based on two books titled The Children of Sanchez and Five Families, are totally unaware of these global realities that will inevitably have a serious effect on their well-being. The word partial famine comes to mind.

What does this have to do with the expat community? It behooves every one of us to talk to those Mexicans who work for us and explain these realities by advising them to save as much money as possible for the upcoming crisis. As an example, my gardener and handyman has many part-time jobs so he can invest in building a home for his wife and three-year-old daughter.

I told him, “Stop investing your money in a new home for the time being and concentrate on feeding your family. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

I hope he listens, but I have my doubts. It’s the effort that counts.

Beldon Butterfield is a writer and former publisher and media representative. He is retired and lives in San Miguel de Allende.

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