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Feb-12-2011 18:52printcomments

Mexico's New Agricultural Crisis

Speaking in an urgent and commanding tone, the Mexican president said producers had 15 days to replant their crops.

Mexico weather affected crops
Courtesy: presstv.ir

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) - February's freezing fury has left a path of crumpled crops, pummeled harvests and dashed dreams in the countryside of northern Mexico. Hardest hit was the northwestern state of Sinaloa, known as the "Bread Basket of Mexico," where about 750,000 acres of corn crops were reported destroyed after unusually cold temperatures blanketed the north of the country in January and early February.

Sinaloa is among Mexico's major producers of white corn, the variety of maize used to make staple tortillas. Heriberto Felix Guerra, secretary of the federal Secretariat for Social Development (SEDESOL), called the weather-related losses "the worst disaster" in the history of Sinaloa.

Altogether, more than 1.5 million acres of corn, vegetable, citrus and other crops were either damaged or destroyed in Sinaloa, with a preliminary economic loss of approximately one billion dollars.

The source of about 30 percent of Mexico's grains and vegetables, Sinaloa also exports food products to the United States. Other northern states also experienced the widespread destruction of winter crops. In Sonora, more than 130,000 acres were reported lost, including 45 percent of the acreage planted in winter wheat. In Tamaulipas, nearly 800,000 acres in corn and sorghum were impacted, while crop losses in Chihuahua were calculated in the $100 million ballpark.

Suddenly, corn is looking like gold. Early in the weekend, armed men reportedly robbed between 18 and 20 tons of corn seed from a truck on the highway between the Sinaloa cities of Culiacan and Navolato.

The administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon is pulling out the stops to counter the agricultural crisis. "This is not a common catastrophe," Calderon said in a February 11 speech in Culiacan. "It is not a routine crop loss, if you will," but truly an emergency situation."

Speaking in an urgent and commanding tone, the Mexican president said producers had 15 days to replant their crops. He said it was incumbent for government agencies to cut the red-tape and get insurance payments, credit, seeds and technical support rolling out the door and into the hands of farmers.


As a trying week drew to a close, the federal Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries announced it would release $100 million in emergency aid, while SEDESOL said about 150,000 farmworkers would benefit from a three-week, temporary employment program designed to pay each worker $11 per day for clearing and replanting fields. According to SEDESOL, other forms of assistance will be given to migrant workers from the states of Oaxaca, Guerrero and Michoacan who labor on the export-oriented farms of the north.

Meanwhile, as crop damage assessments began flowing in, prices for tortillas continued on the upswing, reportedly reaching 13 pesos per kilo in places like Chilpancingo, Guerrero. The price is more than 50 percent higher than the 8 peso ceiling the Calderon administration pledged in 2007.

A Chilpancingo housewife, Estela Segura said the price hikes were the same story every year, affecting people "who have the least" like herself. Nieves Barrientos, another resident of Chilpancingo, contended that if prices for tortillas and other basic products keep rising, so should wages.

The agricultural crisis could have important political ramifications, as Mexico's political forces are increasingly positioning their players for "The Big One": the 2012 presidential election.

As was the case with previous media coverage of the extreme cold that whipped the dithers out of northern Mexico this winter, virtually no mention was made in the latest round of news reports on any possible links between human-caused climate change and the present disaster.

Sources:

  • El Diario de Juarez/Notimex, February 12, 2011.
  • El Universal, February 11, 2011. Article by Javier Cabrera.
  • Proceso/Apro, February 11, 2011. El Sur, February 11, 2011. Article by Claudia Venalonzo. Televisa, February 11, 2011.
  • Sagarpa.gob.mx. Sedesol.gob.mx.

Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico




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Shibu February 18, 2012 10:33 am (Pacific time)

Thank you Miguel for birgning this important information on the status of New Mexico's Farmer Protection Act legislation to our attention. The FPA could be an important tool to defend our food sovereignty and we need to work towards passage in both Colorado and New Mexico. We also need to strengthen this legislation including provisions allowing for watershed-based regulations that ban transgenic crops from heritage crop areas or at least require a scientifically-established norm to protect our precious native heirloom crops from introgression from transgenic crops. We must also work to transform the land grant universities and agricultural extension services to create greater balance between the agroecology and biotechnology paradigms. We remain in solidarity with the Native and acequia farmers of the Rio Arriba.


Vic February 13, 2011 6:37 am (Pacific time)

"As was the case with previous media coverage of the extreme cold that whipped the dithers out of northern Mexico this winter, virtually no mention was made in the latest round of news reports on any possible links between human-caused climate change and the present disaster." Sooo..the global warming hoax didnt take off..now we are responsible for global cooling? Seriously, it is cold here..we are in Nayarit, South of Sinaloa and while we have not had freezing temperatures, it has been getting into the 40s at night. No one here owns heaters (usually never gets cold) and most of the homes do not have glass in the windows anyways, just screen.

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