As foodstuff sales contracted nationally, many Mexican products have continued to find their way to foreign destinations. Among these exports are exotic fruits and avocados, which according to Lia Bijnsdorp, Managing Director of United Producers of Mexico, remain strong despite the pandemic. The organization, founded in 2016 with the mission of connecting Mexican growers with European markets, has worked hard to open a new direct shipping route for exotic produce and avocados between Mexico and the Netherlands, the primary transit market for Europe. The fact that this route did not exist before, seriously limited the volume of Mexican produce that could be transported to Europe in a faster time scale. Lia Bijnsdorp says: “We expect the first charter shipments to take place between Veracruz and the Dutch cities of Flushing or Rotterdam in July-August this year.” She expects this to have major impact on Mexican prospects: “This is going to be a major game changer, reducing the boat trip from more than 20 days to 12 to 14 days.”
Another product which has seen exports continue despite the pandemic is cacao. Juan Gallegos, writing in Diario Presente, says that “the harvesting and export of cacao has not stopped and projects to export to North America, Europe and Asia remain.” The director of Tabasco-based Chocolates Walter, Alejandro Campos, is quoted stating: “We are working on projects for Canada, Spain and China and drawing plans for France, which appears to want to order almost 2 tons of cacao, which is more than what they wanted before the contingency.” While he hopes that the contingency will at some point stabilize, he also says “cacao plant does not know there is a pandemic and harvests are going well at the moment.”
In fact, Gallegos writes, the main threat to the local cacao industry continues to be moniliasis disease, also known as Frosty pod rot disease, which lowered harvests in the past by as much as 50 percent. In a 2013 study written by scientists at COLPOS, the Moniliophthora roreri, the fungus that causes cacao moniliasis, was identified as the primary challenge to cacao production in Tabasco. The study identified the fungicide azoxystrobin has an effectiveness of 55 percent in deterring moniliasis in young plants. Spanish researcher, Sandra Gonzalez, writing in a 2008 study, contended that moniliasis remains an obstacle to achieving sustainability in the Tabasco cacao sector. Tabasco farmers have been severely challenged by the pest, while “countries like Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia have been able to prevail and reach good crop production,” said González.
The cacao case shows that despite an inhibitive health pandemic that seems to have gripped the entire country and become the target of much of the government’s policymaking over the past weeks, other challenges persist in the agricultural sector that require the attention and collaboration of scientists, the government and private actors. Despite contingency measures, export efforts, in both cases described above, are worthy of admiration.