Tracing the Maize-Tortilla Chain

Mexico is the original source of maize and home to a wide biodiversity. Maize has always been the main staple food of Mexicans and the principal crop cultivated by its farmers for millennia.1

In the twentieth century, Mexico's economic growth centred around towns and cities. In the first half of the twentieth century, maize was central to a food policy motivated by the goal of self-sufficiency. Agriculture flourished because of the Green Revolution. This strategy enabled agricultural growth and also increased yields. Cheap food was therefore guaranteed to a population growing rapidly -- reaching a peak annual growth rate of 3.6 per cent in the 1960s. However, by the early 1970s, Mexico began to import corn, mainly from the United States. This trend persisted, so that by 2008 Mexico's balance of trade in food has been increasingly in the deficit.

This increased dependency on foreign markets to satisfy the demand for food in Mexico is the outcome of a complex historical process in which the State has played a key role: food policy either enabled or constrained farmers to grow food and consumers to consume. The overriding goal of Mexico's food policy was to provide for enough cheap food, which was a quantitative approach to food security rather than a "qualitative" approach concerned with preferences.2

How to obtain enough and cheap food has changed over time in Mexico. In the early 1990s, Mexico's opening economy was integrated with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and Mexico moved away from import substitution, i.e. replacing imports with goods produced in the country. As part of NAFTA, commercial farmers from midwestern United States and Mexico supplied corn and met Mexico's food security. Small and medium farmers in Mexico were deemed inefficient and uncompetitive in the world market. The current rise in world food prices has completely changed the context of such a strategy.

In this article, I argue that Mexico now has an opportunity to revise its food policy and give more attention to domestic agriculture and output. In order to sustain this argument, I will briefly review the food policy in the latter half of the twentieth century and then analyse the current situation of the maize-tortilla chain. Finally, I will argue for revising the food policy in the framework of the current international debate on the "food crisis".

Modernizing Mexican agriculture: A 20th century timeline

From the 1950s to the mid-1980s domestic production sustained Mexico's cheap food policy. In the early years, as the agricultural frontier expanded and more staple crops were sown, productivity shot up with the application of the green revolution technology. Mexico was self-sufficient in food crops until 1970.

Modernization, however, meant that the subsidies to accelerate the green revolution were channelled to areas that could quickly adjust to policy incentives, that is, commercial farms and irrigated lands. From the 1940s to the late 1960s, private landholdings became the dynamo of agricultural development. Small and medium-sized farms, consisting mainly of peasants with land distributed under the agrarian reform (ejidos), were marginalized and deprived of policy benefits. Hence the majority of Mexican farmers remained in peasant economies that supplied cheap labour to the economy and produced marginal agricultural surplus. The outcome was a highly polarized farm landscape. In 1970, 13.4 per cent of farms produced 58 per cent of farm output, while 55.7 per cent of farms did not even make subsistence income and only contributed 11.7 per cent of the output.

By the late 1960s, the constant tug-of-war between giving incentives to agriculture and maintaining low prices in order to contain wages reached its limits. But the trend to maintain low prices had a negative impact, particularly on maize output. Commercial farmers instead cultivated feed crops for livestock due to the demand for meat from a domestic, urban, middle-class population. Peasant agriculture -- growing staple foods like maize and beans -- was unable to create surplus stocks, as their access to productive resources, including technology, had been overtaken by agricultural policy. However, by 1971, when Mexico began to import corn from the United States, agricultural policy was also revised with the goal of regaining self-sufficiency in staple foods.

Government programmes embrace the small farmer
A new "modernization programme" was launched. It embraced the small and medium farmer. Resources were funnelled to the countryside and ejidos were organized to benefit from the green revolution. Rural credit, storage facilities and marketing, at government stabilized prices, reached out to small and medium-sized farms through the state marketing agency Compania Nacional de Subsistencias Populares (Conasupo). Within a decade, the modernization drive gained momentum when excess oil revenues were routed to the food sector under the Sistema Alimentario Mexicano programme, the most serious effort to implement a successful food security policy in recent history. Maize output grew 37 per cent from 1969/71 to 1980/82 -- not enough to regain self-sufficiency, but enough to show that small farmers could respond to policy incentives. Another positive experience was the organization of a food distribution system in both urban and rural areas that confronted the power of local merchants and shopkeepers, benefiting low-income consumers, even those in remote areas of the country.

The dilemma of maintaining low agricultural and low food prices was solved during the 1970s and early 1980s by adding subsidies along the maize production chain. Guaranteed prices were paid, above international levels, to farmers who sold to the State marketing boards that also set the market price for maize. Subsidies backed credit to purchase agricultural inputs; subsidies supported the tortilla industry for purchasing maize; and urban consumers bought tortillas at government-subsidized prices. To sustain the subsidies and support the corn flour and tortilla industry, the government increasingly complemented domestic production with corn imported at lower world prices.3

The ability to sustain a subsidized cheap food policy paradoxically proved costly to the government. Due to the financial crisis of 1982, when Mexico briefly defaulted on its foreign debt, the cheap food policy ultimately became unsustainable. Like many other countries, Mexico followed the International Monetary Fund's structural adjustment prescriptions and pursued to stabilize its economy. Food policy was revised, subsidies slowly withdrawn, creating a ripple effect on agriculture.

Meanwhile, a new agriculture modernization programme, Programa de Modernizacion del Campo, was announced in 1990. The programme aimed to promote competitiveness and productivity in Mexican agriculture so that it could compete internationally. Inefficient farm holdings, as defined by the market, would no longer be supported, but would be helped through urban and rural poverty reduction programmes established in the same decade. Agricultural performance was to be based on high-value export crops, such as fruit and vegetables, that could survive competitively on the international market.

During the early 1990s, the State dismantled the institutional framework that supported agriculture. This included: the rural credit bank that mainly financed peasant or agrarian reform land; the State marketing agency, Conasupo; the State fertilizer and seed industry; and extension services provided by the Ministry of Agriculture. Agrarian legislation was also modified, so that land distribution came to an end and restrictions on land transaction in the reform sector (ejidos) were modified in order to prompt investment in agriculture.

To compensate the income loss to farmers once the State no longer supported the price of food staples, Programa de Apoyo Directo al Campo (Procampo) or "direct support to the countryside" paid farmers according to the number of hectares they owned. Designed in 1993 as a transitional programme, Procampo has now been renewed and is one of the main farm-income subsidies. Another programme, Apoyos y Servicios a la Comercializacion (Aserca) or "support and services to agricultural commercialization", implemented in 1991, paid a subsidy per tonne based on the difference between world prices and a regional price, thus guaranteeing income to farmers. The third major programme, Alianza para el Campo or "alliance for the countryside", later renamed Alianza Contigo or "alliance with you", implemented in 1995, was directed at promoting technology and changing the crop-sowing patterns towards high-value crops and pasture lands, to give incentives to livestock production. However, these programmes were not universal and were targeted at farmers who complied with the programme guidelines. These three major agricultural development programmes account for 57 per cent of the rural development budget in 2005/07 and mainly benefit the large and commercial farms.
As for food policy, attention was directed at the supply side. Subsidies on food staples, particularly the tortilla industry and the final product, took longer to dismantle. From the mid-1980s, several attempts to revise subsidies were made, mainly to substitute general subsidies targeting the poorest people in the urban areas. Subsidies for tortillas were finally abolished in 1998.4

Imports substitute domestic production
When Mexico joined NAFTA in January 1994, the government focused on securing grain procurement, mainly corn, from its American trade partner. Up until 2006, when real prices (the value of a product after removing the effect of inflation) tended to decline, this approach was successful. However, small and medium-sized Mexican farms, which could not viably grow maize for the market, did not benefit. Not only did the total supply of maize become more dependent on imports but domestic output was also restructured. This profoundly affected the rural economy and peasants' access to and consumption of staple foods.

There is an ongoing process of economic, social and cultural changes, which is beyond the scope of this article to explore.5 Here, I will briefly analyze the impact of NAFTA on maize. Mexico has increasingly become dependent on the world market for its staple foods and has the fastest growth rate of national food imports at 7.8 per cent yearly (1990 to 2004), after Indonesia and China. Since NAFTA, the agricultural trade balance has run a deficit, except in 1995, when the economic crisis and the peso devaluation halted imports.

In the past two decades, output of certain crops, such as rice and wheat, have decreased dramatically, while imports of these grains have increased to more than 800,000 tonnes for rice, and almost 4 million tonnes for wheat in 2007, compared to little over 300,000 tonnes and 500,000 tonnes in 1985. As for maize, in 2007, over 7 million tonnes of total consumption were imported. Meanwhile, beans and sorghum imports were lower in 2007, at close to 100,000 tonnes and more than 2.5 million tonnes, respectively, similar to the import levels between 1985 and 2007. Also, per capita consumption of all staples, except maize, has decreased.6

From 1994, the first year of nafta, domestic maize output increased from 18.3 million tonnes, reaching 23.8 million tonnes in 2007, while imports rose from 2.6 million to 7.5 million tonnes. Under the agricultural chapter of NAFTA, imports of maize, beans and sugar cane had a 15-year tariff protection due to the price elasticity of these crops. The protection consisted of a phase-out period in which tariffs could be reduced and completely abolished by January 2008. This has, however, not been enforced. Imports above the quota were tariff-free on account of "food security". This cancelled, in fact, the period of price adjustment of Mexican maize farms to international market conditions.

Maize is the most extensive crop grown in Mexico. It is estimated that 3 million farmers cultivate maize, 67 per cent is grown on small farms mainly for self-consumption, 23 per cent on medium-sized farms and only 10 per cent on commercial farms.7 All farms grow white maize mainly for human consumption, while imported yellow corn is used for industrial purposes and fodder. Although white maize is preferred because of quality and cultural reasons for making tortilla -- the staple dish consumed at every Mexican meal -- market prices are set by the international price of the United States yellow corn grade 2. Hence the "quality" of corn is not differentiated by market prices, and both white maize and yellow corn are ingredients for tortillas, corn flour and other food, including animal fodder.

Maize production in Mexico has increased since 1994 in spite of decreasing real prices. Several factors may explain this: peasant households continue to grow maize for self-consumption but have withdrawn from commercial production; maize grown on irrigated land thrived due to favourable price changes in the early 1990s; and Procampo and social welfare expenditures targeting rural populations have partially supported maize or other crops.

As for sustaining maize production in subsistence agriculture, the decrease in the price of maize prior to NAFTA, and until 2006, together with the withdrawal of direct subsidies for credit, inputs and technical assistance, had a severe impact on small and medium farmers. Case studies show that many peasant farmers adopted a strategy of "minimum agricultural practice", investing less in labour and inputs, which had a direct impact on maize yield.

Nevertheless, small farmers continue to grow maize for household consumption if they have a plot of land, labour and resources to cover input costs such as seed and fertilizer. Even so, agriculture has become a secondary activity, while non-agricultural work, such as remittances from migrants, are the main source of income. Often, it is women who are in charge of the farm, either labouring themselves or supervising hired labour. Peasant households also grow maize for food because they may prefer the local white and native varieties, considered to be of higher quality than the hybrids and certainly the imported yellow maize. The household chores of women have therefore expanded to cultivating maize for self-consumption, as it is no longer a valuable market crop. In many rural communities, cultural attitudes towards land and maize still prevail: a peasant must till the land.

But these forces that prompt the peasant to till the land are changing. Household income is no longer dependent on farming as non-farm income has become the main source for small farmers. Heads of rural farm households are ageing -- the average age is 55. And youth, no longer interested in farming, have by and large migrated. Maize production on non-irrigated land has therefore stagnated and decreased in regions such as Jalisco, the State of Mexico, and Chiapas that formerly supplied the domestic market.

For many of the small and medium farmers, the choice of growing alternative crops on non-irrigated land is very limited, while policies to assist farmers to reconvert cropping patterns are not viable for small producers.8 Financial and technical assistance has been all but absent for this social group, as public policies were aimed at farmers who could rapidly respond to market demands. Since the 1990s, commercial agriculture has mainly sustained maize production. This is mainly because of investments by large farms in technology: a hectare of irrigated land yields an average of 6.8 tonnes, while a non-irrigated hectare yields a constant 2 tonnes.

The case of the northwestern state of Sinaloa illustrates how maize output has been restructured by geography and by the type of farmer. Sinaloa did not produce maize prior to the 1990s. Today it is the most important producer of maize. This change was prompted by a relative price advantage of maize in the early 1990s, when Sinaloa was mainly farming wheat, sorghum and high-value export crops such as tomatoes. When government-support prices for all basic crops except maize and beans were abolished in 1992, farmers switched to maize and benefitted from new subsidy programmes like Procampo. In 1993, farmers who had cultivated basic crops qualified for a payment per hectare, and those in Sinaloa, who had shifted to maize, were able to claim a transfer payment that was substantial for large landholders (the subsidy equalled about $100 per hectare).9 From 1989 to 1993, maize production in Sinaloa increased by 931 per cent!10 By 2007, Sinaloa produced 5 million tonnes of maize, equal to 20 per cent of domestic output and half of the maize used for human consumption, two thirds of which go to the market, accounting for 70 per cent of maize for commercial tortillas and other foods.
Sinaloa farmers have invested in technology and attained high yields comparable to those of United States' farmers. Unlike subsistence farmers, their success has been supported by public financing through Procampo, Alianza para el Campo, and Aserca. According to recent data, 10 per cent of farmers with large landholdings receive some 50 to 80 per cent of subsidies through these programmes. About 45 per cent of Procampo budget in 2007 was assigned to farms larger than 5 hectares, accounting for 15 per cent of farms in the programme, while 55 per cent of Alianza and 80 per cent of the Aserca budget supported crop commercialization. In all, 47 per cent of the Aserca price compensatory programme was assigned to maize and 70 per cent of that went to Sinaloa.11

In the past decades, Mexico has followed a food security policy based on the open market and in support of the most competitive producers. That's why the supply of maize has been increasingly dependent on large commercial producers from the United States and Mexico. Modernization of agriculture has, as often in the past, excluded small and medium farms, while commercial farms thrived in exports and in cultivation of high-tech maize. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, in 1994, 15 per cent of farms with 20 per cent of the cultivated acreage produced an agricultural output of 47 per cent, while 50 per cent of subsistence farms, with 38 per cent of acreage, contributed to an output of 19 per cent.

Since the beginning of the decade in 2000, peasant livelihoods have, to an extent, been dismantled or, to say the least, stagnated. Rural household income has become dependent on non-farm sources and government social welfare. Local economies are no longer linked to farming but rather to low-income informal economies in commerce and services. Younger people do not consider agriculture as an option but look towards urban lifestyles or going "up North". In this landscape the future of maize is indeed uncertain.

2007 and the "tortilla crisis"
The vulnerability of the Mexican maize chain became apparent in January 2007. Tortilla prices increased between 42 and 67 per cent and the international price of corn increased 75.5 per cent from the average in 2006 to January 2007. It was not a period of scarcity since the spring-summer harvest on non-irrigated land continued, but the price of maize was directly affected by the international market, and prices had been creeping up since the third quarter of 2006.12 Once consumers bore the brunt of the price increase, the debate on food policy gained momentum. Simultaneously, throughout 2007, the debate on the impact of total liberalization of maize imports under NAFTA, which was to come into effect in January 2008, was renewed with vigour. Peasant organizations mobilized against it and civil society forums discussed the risks and vulnerability of free trade on small Mexican farmers. The cheap food policy of the 1990s dependent on imports and subsidized farming had come to an end.

Having commented on some of the consequences of this policy on agriculture and farmers, I will now briefly look at some data concerning consumers. The real price of tortillas rose constantly from the mid-1990s to 2007. While the price index of maize showed an annual increase of 6.3 points from 1996 to 2006, the price of tortillas increased 16.1 annually and that of corn flour and masa (maize dough) rose to 11.4. Although farmers sold their crops at smaller profits, consumers purchased tortillas at prices above the rate of inflation (see graph).

One reason for this is that subsidies for the tortilla industry were withdrawn in the 1990s as part of structural adjustment policies. Also the maize-tortilla chain was deregulated, that is, controls on maximum price, which had been a key factor in food policy for decades, were abolished in 1994.13 Finally, the targeted food subsidy, implemented since 1984, consisting initially of a low selling price and subsequently of a free kilogram of tortillas daily for poor urban families, was also abolished. This food subsidy was substituted and integrated into an income subsidy under a major poverty alleviation programme called Progresa, renamed Oportunidades in 2001. The poor were now free to choose the food they wanted to consume at market price.

When the tortilla industry was deregulated, the maize-tortilla chain was also restructured. And when the state marketing agency, Conasupo, finally shut down, grain marketing firms entered the Mexican market in the 1990s.14 The corn-flour industry was highly concentrated in one firm -- today a major Mexican transnational corporation -- which produces around 80 per cent of corn flour and supplies the traditional tortilla industry.15 Deregulation meant government intervention was replaced by a highly commercial grain and corn-flour industry. A new element in the direct sale of tortillas, both packaged and freshly baked, is large supermarket chains that play a key role in setting urban prices.

An agreement to manage tortilla prices
Restrictions on the corn flour industry and the traditional tortilla industry to set market prices were lifted. But tortilla prices were a sensitive issue for the government. It was concerned much more with possible urban discontent than with small farmers facing the impact of free trade and dwindling subsidies. The past practice of an agreement among stakeholders (industry, government and unions) to set fixed prices on food staples was restored. In January 2007, the government, several farmers' organizations, grain marketing firms, and the flour and tortilla industry signed an agreement that committed them to a fixed price of 8.50 pesos per kilo of tortillas.16 Even large retailers, such as Wall Mart, signed the agreement together with other supermarket chains to sell at 6 pesos per kilo. The government would distribute maize and corn flour at fixed prices through the rural public distribution system to benefit marginal communities. Finally, the government also committed to strengthen the nation's consumer rights institution17 to monitor enforcement of the agreement and to penalize speculation and other abuses that could potentially shoot up input prices and consequently those of tortillas.

The agreement was a short-term measure but renewed until August 2007. The traditional masa and tortilla industry that could not compete with the fixed prices continuously disputed that many agents along the production and distribution chain were not enforcing the agreement fairly. According to La Jornada, tortillas were sold at 9 to 12 pesos per kilo in many regional cities. Finally, the agreement was substituted by a government-financed programme aimed at modernizing the traditional tortilla industry and increasing its productivity in order to keep a check on rising prices.18

Since 2007, the Mexican Government has recognized the need to support small and medium-sized farms in order to lessen the risk of shortage in maize supply. The government launched several programmes to facilitate credit, boost productivity, provide green revolution-type technology and establish a special fund to subsidize diesel fuel and petrol. Funding to farmers through development banking and private banks also increased. Other minor programmes, such as the Special Programme for Food Security, sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), have also have been promoted.

The government acts on the food crisis
During the first six months of 2008, the Mexican Government took further action to deal with the impact of the world food crisis. A programme and 18 mechanisms were launched in May, including the elimination of tariffs on the imports of key staple foods, an additional payment (120 pesos or $12 monthly) for poor households in the poverty alleviation programme, Oportunidades, increase in and ease of credit terms to farmers and the continuation of new programmes supporting the production of food staples. In the first six months of 2008, government intervention in the maize-tortilla chain also extended to grain merchants. A subsidy for transport and storage was authorized for major firms, which equalled 14 per cent of the final per tonne price of maize. Another subsidy of 200 pesos per tonne for animal feed was allotted to livestock producers.

The government also announced a plan under which the public distribution system Diconsa, which provided grains to poor households throughout the country, would store maize equivalent to nine months of domestic consumption. In short, the first official reaction to the tortilla crisis was short-term and focused on the consumer. On the supply side, storing enough grain for domestic supply was also strongly supported by the fact that the remaining import tariffs on corn were not enforced in 2007. From 2008, NAFTAtariffs on all agricultural products have been abolished. The import of yellow and white maize soared in January 2008 and nearly tripled compared with imports in January 2007.
But imported grain prices have risen. The price of white maize increased 24 per cent during 2007.19 In 2007/08, a number of measures, supported by public expenditures, have been implemented to diminish the effects of the maize-tortilla chain crisis. Some of the programmes targeted small farmers. However, these programmes are short-term, have less funding, are dependent on the annual rural budget and are not framed within a medium and long-term food security policy.

Mexico and the world food crisis: The issues
In past decades, Mexico has followed a market-driven policy to ensure a sufficient supply of cheap food at the cost of excluding the majority of small- and medium-sized farms. In recent history, modernizing agriculture to benefit large commercial farms may have solved the problem of agricultural output, but social polarization and inequality remain the unaddressed challenges in Mexico's rural development.

The world food crisis has underlined the contradictions of such a policy. There are many reasons to take sides with a food security policy that is based on sound agricultural performance. Until this crisis hit, arguments in favour of such a policy stressed the contradictions of depending on external markets for food, while rural people were marginalized into informal, low-paid, non-agricultural jobs, migration and even illegal activities that lead to social and cultural fragmentation. At present, the food crisis seems to justify a policy related to the risks of depending on global markets for domestic food supply.

It was not until 2008 that unstable international commodity markets made international aid agencies and governments speak out on the need to revisit food security, in spite of the fact that from late 2006 the increase in global food demand from major developing countries, the United States biofuel policy, climate change and falling international stock markets have pointed to volatile global markets.

Mexico now has an opportunity to revise its food security policy for a long-term commitment to rural development. This policy must be focused on the immediate need to secure food supply, soften the blow of high prices on low-income populations and promote a sustainable social, environmental and agricultural growth. The debate on such a policy has been ongoing in Mexico for decades and, even though formally adopted in rural policy documents, has been little noticed in practice.20

As a final comment, I will point to some of the issues at stake in a food security policy that tends to depend on foreign markets and neglects small and medium-sized farms:
¥ Vulnerability to hunger at the national, rural and community levels on account of world prices that are estimated to stabilize at the current high levels and are aggravated by increasing transport costs.
¥ The quality of white and native maize, preferred by Mexicans, has suffered. Maize from different sources mixed with corn flour has turned the tortilla into an industrialized product, rendering it inferior in quality.
¥ Abandonment of agriculture by small farmers has negative environmental impacts, as they are the keepers of rich maize biodiversity.
¥ Climate changes that worsen floods or drought have been found to affect maize production.
¥ Disruption in rural livelihoods. When non-agricultural income becomes the main source of livelihood, or agriculture is abandoned, marginalized local economies lack investment for local growth and depend on government welfare. In many regions, though cash income may increase household income, jobs are often precarious and badly paid whether from wages or self-employment.
¥ Migration, which has become the main avenue for income for rural families, disrupts family and community life.
¥ A trend to monopolize the industrialized maize-tortilla production chain. A few transnational corporations, big supermarket retailers and large commercial farmers have become powerful lobbies influencing policy.
Cynthia Hewitt, a renowned expert on the subject, noted: "With the upheaval in the food system, vulnerability increases in direct relationship to the depth of problems not solved in rural development."
Lessons from the past have shown how "modernization" of agriculture that excludes small and medium farmers has led to social polarization and weighed down on growth and development. In this time of the world food crisis, Mexico, like other developing countries, has the opportunity to reform its food security policy. It can opt for sustainable agriculture that protects the environment, and secures rural social and cultural livelihoods and the right to food according to people's "preferences for an active and healthy life", as acclaimed in recent years by the majority of Mexican society. ?

(Many thanks to Cynthia Hewitt for her valuable suggestions in?the preparation of this article.)


1 In this article, I will use "maize" (from the botanical classification Zea mays by Linneo; Warman, 1988) for the Mexican varieties and "corn" when referring to the United States grain. Sixty different strains of maize have been identified in Mexico, with thousands of soil types and local varieties (Alvarez-Buya, 2004:181, cited by González and Macías, 2007).
2 Recall the concept of "food security" agreed upon by the FAO 1996 World Food Summit: "Food security exists when all people, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life" ( On a "quantitative" concept of food security related to Mexico, see Appendini, García and De la Tejera, 2003; Appendini, Cortés and Díaz, 2008.
3 Under a closed economy, the government was the only agent to import maize. Private agents were slowly allowed to import. Though imports were de facto liberated by 1995, the quota system was abolished formally only in January 2008.
4 For the current history of food policy in Mexico, see Appendini, 2001.
5 See Appendini and De Luca, 2006.
6 For an analysis of food dependency, see González and Macías, 2007.
7 Total farmers with land were 4.2 million in 2005 (Registro Agrario Nacional, 2006).
8 Alianza para el Campo requests that 30 per cent of project investment be provided by the producers, the other part by State and federal government financing.
9 In 2005, all crops were incorporated into the programme.
10 In the same period, the volume of rice produced fell by 89 per cent, sorghum by 79 per cent and wheat by 63 per cent (Ita, 2003).
11 Channeling Aserca to Sinaloa has been sustained; in 1998, 70 per cent was also assigned to the State in order to support marketing (Ita, 2003).
12 In Mexico the price paid to farmers increased by 42 per cent from late 2006 to January 2007. But the price at regional storage facilities increased, ranging from 48 to 85 per cent (SAGARPA, 2007a:43-44).
13 Price control on food staples, including tortilla, was part of a policy to control wages throughout the twentieth century. A complex system of subsidies for the tortilla industry in urban areas was implemented, which was unravelled slowly after 1994 (Appendini, 2001).
14 In 2001, nine firms controlled 49 per cent of corn imports in Mexico. Archer Daniela, Midland, Gargill, Pilgrims Pride, Arancia-Comercializadora, Bachoco, Maseca, Minsa, Diconsa (Ita, 2003).
15 The traditional tortilla is made from ground grain, previously processed with calcium (masa nixtamaizadal). The industry mixes flour and grain in different ratios, thus tortillas are of different qualities. The traditional industry sells fresh-baked tortillas from small outlets in the cities and villages throughout Mexico.
16 Acuerdo para Estabilizar el Precio de la Tortilla.
17 Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Consumidor.
18 Programa Nacional de Modernización de la Industria, Mi Tortilla.
19 White maize was not by and large grown in the United States, but NAFTA has opened a market in Mexico for this variety. Mexico is one of the few countries in the world that provides white maize for human consumption.
20 Ley de Desarrollo Rural, Acuerdo Nacional para el Campo (Law on Rural Development, National Agreement for the Countryside).


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Kirsten Appendini is Professor at El Colegio de México. She teaches Mexican economy, agrarian structure, population and gender studies and is the author of several publications on these subjects. New Programmes Supporting Production of Food Staples, 2007/08

PROMAF (Programa de Apoyo a Maíz y Frijol) -- Programme for maize and beans provides technology, extension services, infrastructure, machinery and equipment for farms on non-irrigated land plots of less than 5 hectares.

FONAMU (Fondo Mutualista de Productores de Maíz y Frijol) -- Mutual fund for maize and bean producers works as a credit collateral. Launched in July 2007, it is mainly aimed at the fall/winter harvest on irrigated land.

Fondo de Compensación a costos a energéticos agrícolas -- Fund for compensating the cost of energy inputs subsidizes the cost of diesel.