Mais wordt te duur in Mexico

De FAO in Rome berichtte op 7 dec. 2006 : "De graanprijzen, vooral die van tarwe en maïs, hebben een niveau bereikt dat we in tien jaar niet hebben gekend. Mindere oogsten in voorname productielanden en een snel toenemende vraag naar biobrandstofproductie heeft de graanprijzen opgedreven. Er zijn daarnaast ook leveringsproblemen in de rijstsector."

De Mexicanen komen in opstand, want hun tortilla's worden onbetaalbaar

Zie volgend bericht uit Mexico, 19 januari 2007.

Tenslotte nog een bericht van Peter Rosset n.a.v. de crisis.

News from Mexico about Corn Crisis

This is a note from Alejandro Villamar from our partner organization RMALC in Mexico with information on events related to the crisis of high corn prices in Mexico, and demands for actions from the Mexican Government.

Dear Friends:

I share with you the today news of political action and pressure on the Mexican Government (in a unofficial translation to English). First is the Mexican Congress so called Point of Agreement, adopted unanimously by all parties. Second are excerpts of the more recently and long Farmers Statement against the neoliberal free trade measures of the Felipe Calderon regime.

Best Regards,

Alejandro Villamar

Note N°. 0802

“The Permanent Commission of the Mexican Congress exhorted today (17-01-2007) the holders of the secretaries of Economy and Agriculture (Eduardo Sojo, and Alberto Cárdenas respectively), to present before the National General Attorney's office a formal denunciation in opposition to hoarders and speculators of maize (corn) and, in his case, put into perspective the corresponding sanctions. In addition there was an approval for a Point of Agreement presented by the senator Carlos Lozano (PRI) to request an appearance before the plenary session to the following; heads of Agriculture, Alberto Cárdenas; of Social Development, Beatriz Zavala; of Economy, Eduardo Sojo; and of the Federal Attorney's office of the Consumer, Antonio Morales; and the president of the Federal Commission of Competition, Eduardo Perez Mota.

The federal civil servants will have to explain the possibility of adapting the agricultural paragraph of the NAFTA and report on the public policy on exports and imports of basic grains, adopted by the federal government in the last six years. (Added emphasis A.V.)

The secretaries will have to present the actions that the federal government will carry out, in order to guarantee stable prices in products of basic food basket and to stop the deterioration of the buying power as a result of the increase in the cost of egg, milk, meat and chicken. After presenting the Point of Agreement of urgent and obvious resolution, addressed by his political party, the senator Ricardo Monreal (PRD) indicated that the excessive increase in price of corn has affected the cost of products of basic consumption, without action from the federal government to stop the situation. He said the latter is a consequence of the erroneous economic policy and lack of attention to the farms, as well as the impunity of the competent authorities, such as the Federal Commission of Economic Competition and the General Attorney's office of the Republic (PGR) which he said, "they have turned into accomplices of the big capitals "

" We believe that this is the opportunity for this Permanent Commission to demand that the General Attorney's office of the Republic initiate previous corresponding inquiries and could define responsibilities to stop and sue the alleged persons in charge, the monopolizes, who have provoked this increase in the prices, " he stressed. In his opportunity, the deputy Juan Jose Rodríguez Prats (PAN) thought with the corn problem, one cannot ignore the alternate use that corn gives to the grain to generate ethanol, which represents an opportunity to capitalize on the Mexican field in zones most isolated of the country, but that harms the consumers. He commented that it is necessary to orchestrate policy that stimulates the corn sowing, which fixes competitive prices and which propitiates the competition and the respect to the law. "For this reasons, the National Action Party is in favor of this Point of agreement ", he stated.


Excerpts of Press Release 17-01-2007 of Mexican Farmers Organizations (CNPA, CONOC, EL BARZÓN-ANPAP)

We the rural organizations declare ourselves against the speculative rise in the prices of the tortillas, and we are in favor of a new policy for food sovereignty and safety. It would demand for the exclusion of the maize (corn) from NAFTA.

We the rural organizations signed below, declare ourselves against the speculative rise in the prices of the tortillas caused by the Felipe Calderon’s government that affects the majority of Mexicans, especially those from low-income populations, and it only benefits a few big food-processing Mexican and American companies.

1. What are the immediate reasons of the criminal and illegal rise in the prices of the tortillas? 

The dismantlement of the rural production of corn coupled with the increased dependency of corn imports are caused by the neoliberal governments from 1994, with the NAFTA into force, to the present. This has totally exposed our country to the volatility and uncertainty of the agricultural international markets, highly dominated by the developed countries and by theirs gigantic food-processing corporations whose unique intentions are to maximize theirs earnings. In this context, the international price of corn has doubled in the last year, passing from 80 US dollars to 160 a ton for corn in the United States, due to a growth in demand for ethanol production and the increasing imports of China. Likewise, the goods in the United States and in the world rose up to record levels. Despite these well-known facts, the federal government did not recognize the potential dangers for our food safety not even its impact on domestic prices and, therefore, it took neither any precautions nor any measure.

On the contrary, the federal government through the Secretary of Economy, Agriculture, and the Marketing governmental Agency (ASERCA), provoked an artificial shortage of white corn for human consumption by authorizing and subsidizing 1.5 million tons of white corn put aside from the autumn - winter crop (June – July-August, 2006) in Sinaloa. This reserve was for export to the United States, Central and South America and its use as forage for animals belonging to big cattle companies of Sonora, Sinaloa and Jalisco States. With this very serious measure, it further accentuated the international climbing of prices of corn and it fed the speculation in Mexico. The federal government chose to attend to Maseca´s and Cargill´s interests and authorize the exportation with public subsidies to face the shortage and high prices of white corn in the corn flour plants in the United States, Central and South America. Additionally, the government preferred to accept the request of big cattle businesspersons of Sonora State (Bachoco and Mason Groups), Sinaloa (Group Viz) and Jalisco to face the high prices of importing yellow corn and sorghum and to be able to buy white corn with public subsidies. Cargill bought and stored 600 thousand tons of Sinaloa's corn obtained at 1,650 pesos a ton, they intended to increase his price thanks to the determination of the federal government "to "dry" the domestic market of white corn, allowing him to sell his inventories some months later at 3,500 pesos a ton in the Valley of Mexico. The increase in the prices of petroleum, diesel, gas, and electricity decreed by Felipe Calderón in last December also affected the costs of transportation of corn and production of dough and tortilla.

The federal government has stimulated an anticompetitive concentration in the food-processing markets.  This is a result of the elimination of the former  State Marketing Company Conasupo, which ended price controls allowed  commercial opening, and the privatization of the economy. Now, the Maseca group controls 85 % of the market of corn flour, Cargill controls the marketing of corn and other grains and oligopoly have control of the principal port of entry of grains imports in the Veracruz port, and also control the railway transport Ferromex and Kansa City Southern.  In this situation, Cargill is allowed to fix prices and impose anticompetitive conditions to the rest of the food-processing chains, further raising prices to the final consumers and favoring extraordinary earnings for the big oligopoly companies. In spite of this fact, neither the federal government nor the Federal Commission of Competition have done anything. The owners of the above mentioned companies are indirectly complicit for mutual help and privileges and they even possess former-presidents' and former secretary services.


Appendix : letter of Peter Rosset

Dear all:
This is letter I sent to the NY Times that was NOT published, about the "tortilla crisis" in Mexico.
Peter Rosset, Febr 8, 2007


Dear Sirs:

The recent upward spiral of prices for corn tortillas, the basic staple of the Mexican population, has garnered a lot of international media attention ("Thousands in Mexico City Protest Rising Food Prices," NY Times, February 1, 2007).

Sadly, most stories have missed the point.

The current crisis is the result of two basic forces: almost 25 years of misguided policies, and a short-term coincidence of interests between neoliberal officials, grain companies like Cargill, and the
biotech seed industry.

Since 1982 -- and especially in preparation for the 1994 signing of NAFTA -- successive Mexican presidents have implemented policies that, combined with the opening of the Mexican market to imports of cheap corn, have savagely undercut national corn production by peasant farmers. The result is that Mexico, where corn was domesticated 9,000 years ago by indigenous farmers, now imports one
third of its needs, despite having the land to produce nearly double what it consumes.

Taking advantage of this loss of food self-sufficiently, free traders in the government have conspired with grain import-export companies and the biotech industry to create an artificial crisis. The pretext is rising corn prices in the US due to growing demand for bio-ethanol plants, but Mexican tortilla prices have risen far, far more than US prices. In fact, the grain industry was allowed to hoard the last harvest, driving prices way up, serving as the perfect pretext for the free traders to further open the country to greater tariff-free imports, which will further undercut national productive capacity.
It has also allowed the biotech industry to demand permission for commercial planting of until-now banned genetically modified corn.

In fact, what Mexico needs is a "food sovereignty" policy -- one that combines diverse policy measures with a halt to tariff-free imports in order to rebuild national corn growing capacity. This is what Mexican farmer organizations are correctly calling for. If Mexico produces it's own corn, which it can easily do, then it won't matter when international prices fluctuate up or down, and peasant farmers will once again be able to make a living instead of being forced to migrate North.

Peter Rosset, Ph.D.
Center for the Study of Rural Change in Mexico (CECCAM)

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