Mexico Will Achieve Food Self-Sufficiency: Víctor VillalobosBy Jan Hogewoning | Tue, 11/24/2020 - 19:50
Mexico will achieve a food self-sufficiency co-efficient of 67.4 percent by the end of this president’s six-year term. This is the promise made by Victor Villalobos in an interview with newspaper El Sol de México published this Monday. While the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER) is optimistic about the progress towards this aim, others are expressing doubt as to whether this figure is achievable.
The 67.4 percent, Villalobos states, would mean that there would be enough volume of basic grains produced to cover the full amount consumed in the country. Basic grains refer to produce including corn and beans. According to Villalobos, a decade ago Mexican production only covered a fourth of national consumption. Five years later this was a third. At the beginning of Lopez Obrador’s term in 2018, this number stood at half, or approximately 50 percent.
The minister pointed to the programs Production for Wellbeing (Producción para el Bienestar), Guaranteed Prices Program (Precios de Garantía), Fertilizers for Wellbeing (Fertilizantes para el Bienestar), Basic Basket (Canasta Básica) and Good Fishery (Bienpesca) as being central to the effort to achieve this goal. “[Our] policy has a focus on food sovereignty and self-sufficiency; to small and medium-scale producers through direct support, without intermediaries, to the contribution to the well-being of the rural population, without forgetting the transition to sustainable and resilient agricultural, aquaculture and fisheries production systems.” Victor Villalobos states.
The minister cites the example of white corn. He says ‘we are practically self-sustaining in this area’. National production has gone up by 7 percent since last year according to statistics from SADER, going from 27.1 million tons to an expected 29 million. It is yellow corn where Mexico is far from self-sufficient. According to the same source, national demand currently stands at 18.5 million tons. The country imports between 14 to 16 million annually. The majority of yellow corn is destined for the starch production industry and fishery.
Criticism on multiple fronts
El Sol de México cites José Amadeo Hernández Barajas, president of the CEN of the Independent Campesino Center (CCI). In response to the statements from the Minister of Agriculture, he says: “We ask that SADER give the correct information, because he speaks of a production of 29 million tons of corn for this year and we have never produced that amount in recent years. So where did you get that data from? For this production it is necessary to open more land for cultivation, generate more sowing and that each hectare has increased production. And it is not like that".
He also voices concern about the reduction in government budget destined for agricultural programs. This was already reduced over 2019 and 2020, and for 2020 will suffer another contraction. “Insufficiency will come very strongly, because the budget for the field in 2021 is insufficient. We must be realistic over the last two years and the coming year.”, he says. Hernández Barajas is not the only person to voice concern over reduced budget proposal for agriculture. On November 13, Mexico Business News reported that fierce opposition in the Mexican Chamber of Deputy to the new budget set for 2021. At the time, one member, Cruz Juvenal Roa from the PRI party, pointed out that since 2018, the budget for programs in this sector has reduced by 40 percent. In another statement made in the same week,
Luis Fernando Haro, General Director of the National Agricultural Council (CNA), agreed that government austerity was affecting the agricultural sector
It is not just the accuracy of statistics and a lower budget that is raising concerns. In an interview with Mexico Business News published on March 31 this year, the Executive President of CANIMOLT (National Association of Wheat Millers), Jose Luis Fuente, expressed the concern that while government subsidy programs did indeed lead to increased production, they also disrupt market prices and do not solve the logistical challenges that many smaller producers still face. He advocated for increasing fair competition in the market, between both national, and international players.
In another interview with MBN, published on September 10 last year, the director general of Grupo Consultor de Mercados Agrícolas (GCMA), Juan Carlos Anaya, criticized the government’s subsidy schemes to small producers, with land up to 5ha. “this will not impact the growth of the agricultural output of the sector because government programs focus on small farmers who grow crops for subsistence and not to deliver to markets.” He also advocated for more advanced assistance, stating: “The programs may provide subsidies but it does not offer technical assistance to farmers to increase their productivity.”