by Chris Lyddon
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Mexico is big grain producer, but its crop falls well short of its domestic needs, making it a big customer for its northern neighbor, the United States. Concern over obesity is affecting the pattern of grain-based foods consumption.

According to the International Grains Council (IGC), Mexico’s total grains production in 2016-17 will be 35.1 million tonnes, up from 34.2 million the year before. Wheat production will be 4 million tonnes, up from 3.8 million. The country’s maize production is forecast at 23.5 million tonnes in 2016-17, down from 24 million the year before.

The IGC foresees a rise in Mexico’s sorghum production to 6.8 million tonnes in 2016-17, from 5.7 million in 2015-16.

According to the IGC, Mexico will produce 2.5 million tonnes of durum wheat in 2016-17, up from 2.3 million the year before.

The IGC puts Mexico’s total grains imports at 19 million tonnes in 2016-17, up from 17.9 million the year before. Total wheat imports are seen at an unchanged 4.4 million tonnes, while the country is set to export 1.5 million tonnes of wheat, up from 1.3 million the previous year. Mexico is set to import 13.6 million tonnes of maize, up from 12.7 million the year before. It’s also going to import 800,000 tonnes of sorghum, up from 500,000 in 2015-16. As well, Mexico will import an unchanged 80,000 tonnes of oats.

The IGC puts Mexico’s wheat flour imports in 2016-17 at an unchanged 200 million tonnes in grain equivalent.

The USDA attaché’s most recent annual report on the grains sector in Mexico forecast a 2016-17 maize crop of 22.6 million tonnes from 6.95 million hectares.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture


“The slightly lower harvested area forecasted, compared to the previous two years, responds to concerns that the El Niño weather phenomenon could have on the crop,” the report said.

“Yields continue to vary significantly throughout the country, depending in large part on the level of technology used,” the attaché said. “For example, on average, Sinaloa has yields similar to those obtained in the United States due to the advanced farming technology methods used by the growers of this state.

“On the other hand, there are a large number of small-scale producers of low income, without proper organization that have a culture rooted in traditional cultivation practices and techniques. These small growers often lack training, are without access to information and commercial services, have limited access to risk management instruments, or no funds available to market their crops.”

Maize remains the most important staple crop for human consumption. The attaché quoted the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), corn and tortillas as saying that it accounts for an average 8.3% of total food expenditure of Mexican households.

“However, in the last few years Mexico has experienced a decline in human corn consumption,” the attaché said. “Private and official sources stated that the main factors behind the weakening demand for white corn comes from the myths that have arisen around over consumption of tortillas.

“According to Mexico’s Ministry of Health, the myth that even moderate corn tortilla consumption causes weight gain is false,” the report said. “By contrast, removal of corn tortillas from the daily diet reportedly can promote weight gain and obesity, as corn tortillas are rich in fibers that help a person maintain a good digestive system.”

The attaché pointed out that while tortilla consumption by the average Mexican has fallen by nearly 20% in the last decade, the prevalence of overweight and obesity has tripled. Price increases have also contributed to the fall in corn tortilla consumption.

The attaché forecast 2016-17 wheat production in Mexico at 3.9 million tonnes, up by around 3.7%.

“Unlike last year’s crop, when adverse weather conditions negatively affected the harvest and yields in the main producing state of Sonora, this year’s wheat production has benefited from relatively favorable weather conditions and sufficient water availability in the reservoirs and dams used for irrigation,” the report said.

According to the National Association of Professional Suppliers Industry of Bread, Bakery and Similar Products (ANPROPAN), bread is a staple in the Mexican diet, with per capita consumption at 34 kilos per year, of which 70% to 75% is white bread consumption, the attaché said.

The report also quoted data from the National Chamber of Milling Industry Wheat (CANIMOLT) showing that Mexico has 84 different millers located across the country processing some 8.31 million tonnes of wheat and producing 4.8 million tonnes of flour a year.

“CANIMOLT stated the wheat milling industry has continued to consolidate in the last few years through the acquisitions and fusions of some millers,” it said. “At the same time, wheat milling companies have continued to invest in modernizing their plants. As a result, the wheat flour mill industry output has continued growing at an average rate of between 1% and 1.5% annually.”


According to the attaché’s annual report on the oilseeds sector, total Mexican oilseeds production in 2016-17 is forecast to increase to 505,000 tonnes, up by 9.5%.

Factors behind the increase include a project to encourage the expansion of commercial sunflower growing in Mexico, concerns over the sugarcane aphid’s possible effect on sorghum yields and government support programs.

“Despite this increase, domestic production continues to represent just 8% of total domestic consumption, as imports have continued to displace domestic oilseed production with almost all imports coming from the United States,” the attaché said.


The oilseeds report, like other attaché reports, discusses the issue of genetically modified crops. “Another factor that caused the reduction in the soybeans production estimate in MY 2015-16 was the lack of plantings of genetically engineered (GE) soybean seed in states of the Yucatan Peninsula as well as Chiapas,” it said.

The growing of GE soybeans faces a legal challenge from honey producers, something which has caused many growers to cut back their production plans.

“Mexico continues to send mixed signals regarding its stance toward acceptance of biotechnology,” an attaché report focused on the issue said. “Mexico is equipped with knowledge and expertise in agricultural biotechnology and has regulatory systems in place to assess biotechnology products. However, Mexico is at crossroads due to negative perceptions of the technology and fears about the environmental impacts of GE crops that some opponents have used to disseminate among some sectors of the society.”


In a report entitled “Mexican Agri-business Looks to 2025,” researchers from Rabobank predicted structural changes in the Mexican agricultural sector over the next decade.

It noted that Mexico exceeded the 25-million-tonne barrier for maize production in 2014-15.

“Under normal weather conditions, Mexico is moving to produce around 26 million tonnes of corn from 2016-17 onwards,” the report said. “In the near return, the increase in production will reduce imports, but as the demand grows faster than production capacity over the next 10 years, imports will grow in the long term. Consequently, Mexico will remain the most important buyer of U.S. corn products.

Mexico’s grain and feed prices depend heavily on U.S. prices, as most markets operate under a deficit, Rabobank said.

“Mexico’s domestic market prices are usually equaled the U.S. prices plus a basis, which includes transportation and other handling costs. In the near term, Mexican prices will decline, but less proportionally to the U.S., as a strong U.S. dollar adds support to import prices,” it said. “In the near term, Mexican farmers need to plan for tight margins. Large farmers need to become more efficient and increase economies of scale by increasing yields and diminishing average costs. Smaller farmers need to focus on improving procurement.

In Mexico, corn is the most important crop as it is used to produce tortillas, the most basic staple food in the country, Rabobank noted.

Most of Mexico’s wheat production is durum. “In 2015-16, industrial (milling) wheat demand is estimated at 6.6 million tonnes. We anticipate this demand to increase gradually, reaching 7.7 million tonnes by 2025-26.”

Key Facts

Capital: Mexico City

Population: 121,736,809 (July 2015 est.)

Religions: Roman Catholic 82.7%, Pentecostal 1.6%, Jehovah’s Witnesses 1.4%, other Evangelical Churches 5%, other 1.9%, none 4.7%, unspecified 2.7% (2010 est.).

Location: North America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, between Belize and the United States and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and the United States.

Government: Federal presidential republic. Chief of state and head of government: President Enrique Pena Nieto (since Dec. 1, 2012).

Economy: Mexico’s $2.2 trillion economy has become increasingly oriented toward manufacturing in the 22 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entered into force. Per capita income is roughly one-third that of the U.S. Mexico has become the U.S.’ second-largest export market and third-largest source of imports. In 2014, two-way trade in goods and services exceeded $590 billion. Mexico has free trade agreements with 46 countries, putting more than 90% of trade under free trade agreements. In 2012, Mexico formally joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and formed the Pacific Alliance with Peru, Colombia and Chile. Mexico’s current government, led by President Enrique Pena Nieto, emphasized economic reforms during its first two years in office, passing and implementing sweeping education, energy, financial, fiscal and telecommunications reform legislation, among others, with the long-term aim to improve competitiveness and economic growth across the Mexican economy. Mexico began holding public auctions of exploration and development rights to select oil and gas resources in 2015 as a part of reforms that allow for private investment in the oil, gas, and electricity sectors. Although the economy experienced stronger growth in 2014-15 as a result of increased investment and stronger demand for Mexican exports, growth is predicted to remain below potential given falling oil production, weak oil prices, structural issues such as low productivity, high inequality, a large informal sector employing over half of the workforce, weak rule of law, and corruption.

GDP per capita: $17,500 (2015 est.); inflation: 2.7% (2015 est.); unemployment: 4.5% (2015 est.).

Currency: Mexican pesos (MXN): 18.87 pesos equal 1 U.S. dollar (June 17, 2016).

Exports: $430.9 billion (2015 est.): manufactured goods, oil and oil products, silver, fruits, vegetables, coffee, cotton.

Imports: $434.8 billion (2015 est.): metalworking machines, steel mill products, agricultural machinery, electrical equipment, automobile parts for assembly and repair, aircraft, aircraft parts.

Major crops/agricultural products: Corn, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, cotton, coffee, fruit, tomatoes; beef, poultry, dairy products; wood products.

Agriculture: 3.5% of GDP and 13.4% of the labor force.

Internet: Code: .mx; 16.233 million (2012) hosts and 49.5 million users.