COVID-19 to Affect Mexican Labor in US FieldsBy Jan Hogewoning | Fri, 03/20/2020 - 13:49
For now, COVID-19’s worst hit will be to the Mexican seasonal workers, not the transport of agricultural goods. Mexican agricultural workers are essential to the US agricultural and food processing industry. The US has suspended the issuing of new guest worker visas until further notice.
Meanwhile, the export of Mexican agricultural goods to the US remains relatively undisrupted. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not implemented significant measures as of yet, pointing out that the virus is not carried by food products.
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COVID-19 and Mexico
In light of an increased demand for alcohol for disinfectant producers, Carlos Blackaller Ayala, President of the National Sugarcane Union, declared there is enough alcohol by-product from molasses to meet demand.
The US market will remain open for natural products harvested in Mexico. This means products such as the Persian lime will feel minimal disruption. The FDA will enforce maximum phytosanitary surveillance, but sees low risk as the virus does not embed itself in food products.
Fruit and vegetable producers in the US are preparing for difficult times as the US suspends the issuing of new H2A guest worker visas. Mexican agricultural workers are an essential hand in US fruit and vegetable harvests. First time seasonal workers make up around 50 to 60 percent. The suspension went into effect this Wednesday, March 18, and will remain until further notice. Non-first-time guest workers can still travel to the US.
INAI has given a 100 percent compliance rating to the Ministry of Agriculture (SADER). The recognition is based on the November 2019 SADER publication detailing data, standards and resource management of social programs, officials and federal agencies.
Luis Ángel Rodríguez del Bosque has been appointed the new Director of the National Institute for Research in Forestry, Agriculture and Fishery (INIFAP). Known as the ‘technical arm’ of SADER, Minister of Agriculture Villalobos considers this position essential in overcoming future challenges in agriculture.
The government is launching a strategy for bean production and consumption. The proposed scheme highlights the importance of combining science and technology with the development and promotion of the milpa system and ‘magical town’ routes. Beans are the third crop grown in Mexico with 1.5 million ha and an average production of 1 million tons.
Mexican beef production reached an all-time high in 2019 of 2 million tons. Annual growth is expected to continue with 2.5 percent.
The state government of Queretaro is proposing technification of irrigations and more food supplements for livestock to reduce the impact of lower agricultural output. Lower rainfall and reduced budgets for the sector made 2019 a disappointing year. The proposal of more technification falls in line with the priorities of Minister of Agriculture Villalobos, who has stated that water and soil efficiency have to be the new paradigm in national agricultural production.
Arabica coffee futures jumped 4 percent in New York this week due to worries in potential disruptions in the supply chain as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Retailers are asking for more anticipation in deliveries.
Due to a spike in meat demand from the retail sector, US livestock futures in Chicago rose this Thursday. Many supermarkets are dealing with shortages due to panic shopping.
Border restrictions imposed by several EU countries are disrupting food supplies. Delays and disruption have been observed for several agricultural goods, stated industry representatives and farmers. Labor shortages in the food industry are also expected, as workers need to move across the union.