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MEXICO
On the road to becoming a net food importer
2/29/2012
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Academics warn of dangerous food policy, if government fails to make big changes.

Mexico could be forced to import 80 percent of its food by 2030, warned Manuel Villa Issa, a former undersecretary of agriculture and a researcher at the Chapingo Autonomous University.

Mexico already imports around one-third of its food staples, including corn, wheat, rice, soy, meat and whole milk, said Villa Issa during a meeting with experts from 15 Mexican universities that aimed to design an agricultural overhaul plan that would ensure affordable food for the 115 million Mexicans to be presented to the country’s next president. Elections are scheduled for July.

Mexico produces less than 75 percent of what it consumes, the minimum level recommended by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in order to combat rising food prices. One of the driest seasons in history last year, amid a drought in northern Mexico, has hurt the country´s food production.

Villa Issa said that one of the most worrying signs that the country will be forced to overwhelmingly import its food is that of corn, the backbone of the Mexican diet. He said that the country imported 10 million metric tons in 2011 and that it could increase to 14 million tons this year.

Another concern is that food prices have been rising, but Mexicans’ income has not kept up. According to Villa Issa, over the last five years food prices have doubled but average incomes only rose by 20 percent in the same period, but that given inflation, it has meant no change for many Mexican families.

The experts recommended that the government shift to policies that favor small-scale farmers, by providing low-interest loans, to help spur production.
—Latinamerica Press.


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