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【Country report】Mexico Agriculture: Thrive on the Shift from Efficiency to Resiliency / Serie #1qrcode

−− Interview with Luis Eduardo González Cepeda, President of UMFFAAC

Dec. 28, 2022

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Dec. 28, 2022
Christina Xie

Christina Xie

Editor in chief


When it comes to Mexican agriculture, people can usually name several agricultural products they know or love. But little is known about Mexican agriculture in general, and how the various stakeholders in agriculture, especially the crop-growing system, work together to contribute to the prosperity of Mexican agriculture today. 

When planning this feature, I was hoping to start from some specific topics, to paint a general picture of the Mexican agricultural market, aiming at clearing up the above-mentioned vaguest knowledge concerned by me and our readers. We did this by speaking to experts in the industry. As each specific topic was interpreted, the picture of the Mexican agricultural market unfolded in front of us.

Agriculture is vital to Mexico's economy

The agriculture and food sector is one of the main engines of Mexico’s rural economy. In 2021, Mexico’s GDP was 2.5% from agricultural activities. The first quarter of 2022 almost reached $356,800 million pesos, according to the figure provided by PROCCYT (Association of Crop Protection, Science and Technology). 

The sector has experienced significant growth during the last few years: Production value of crops and livestock increased by 21% and 12%, respectively, between 2012 and 2017 (SIAP, 2018). Mexico’s exports and share in total world exports of agricultural products also increased during the same period. 

Agriculture is the economic activity that generates the most value, 70% of the total primary sector. According to the government, agricultural growth has remained stable over the last 10 years with an estimated growth of 3%, which means that the Mexican countryside is a powerhouse for the Mexican economy.

Cristian García de Paz, Executive Director at PROCCYT, and Luis Eduardo González Cepeda, President of the Mexican Union of Manufacturers and Formulators of Agrochemicals A.C. (UMFFAAC), give us an overview of the agricultural economy with a lot of data and facts.

Innovation is the antidote to meet challenges

The agricultural sector in Mexico has grown over the past decade, but the country still faces challenges and unrealized opportunities. Innovation could be the antidote to meet challenges and find the way out. Bram Govaerts, General Director of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), believes that the most critical factor to drive development in Mexico’s agricultural sector will be whether or not we achieve a large consensus between different key stakeholders to take full advantage of the tools that we already have at our disposal by investing heavily in research for development and in scaling out sustainable farming practices and technologies.

Agrochemical industry is experiencing both internal and external ‘tests’

Agrochemical is very important in the food production chain. However, in Mexico, it is experiencing both internal and external ‘tests’. From the external environment, the main challenges come from global pandemic, rising prices of agri-inputs in the past year, and turbulence in global supply chains caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict this year. Internally, the science-based regulatory system, more investment and exploration of agricultural transformation practices are driving forces that are urgently needed for the development of the industry.

A thirsty future: Agricultural sustainability for water usage

During the conversation with industry experts, we found that the drought in Mexico came up frequently. This year, Mexico has been hit by extremely dry weather. Cristian told us that in Mexico, only 21% of the harvest area has irrigation and the remaining 79% depends on the rain to keep the crop standing. Therefore, it's not hard to understand what drought means to Mexico for productivity, crop quality and yields. 

Bram firmly believes that it is necessary to prepare local food systems for a hotter and drier world by investing in agricultural research, extension and advisory services for farmers and in agricultural infrastructure.

Dahlia del Castillo Trujillo, the Senior Analyst of Rios Ag Consulting, even wrote an entire article on the severity of the drought problem and offered some ideas about possible solutions.

This article will be available in 7 parts. Here is the 1st part.

Interview with Luis Eduardo González Cepeda, President of the Mexican Union of Manufacturers and Formulators of Agrochemicals A.C. (UMFFAAC)

人物1.jpegMexico is a major producer and exporter of food. How much is the GDP of agriculture? How does agriculture contribute to Mexico's economy?

Mexico with a population of 129 million inhabitants by 2020, of which 8.9 million generate and transform agricultural and fishing goods, which allow the country to position itself in the 12th place in world food production; 11th in world production of agricultural crops; 12th. in world production in livestock; and 17th in world fisheries and aquaculture production; creating 5.5 million agricultural jobs, 860 thousand in the breeding and exploitation of livestock species and 177 thousand in fishing and aquaculture (-SIAP. Agri-food Panorama 2021-), which represents 12.2% of national employment and to which must be added the unpaid relatives who live in the countryside.

In 2020, according to official data (SIAP. Agri-food Panorama 2021), the agricultural and fishing sector generated a volume of 290.7 million tons (made up of 91.2% of agricultural products, 8.1% livestock and 0.7% fishing), with a value of $1 billion 241 thousand 676 million pesos (value of which 55.8% is agricultural, 40.6% livestock and 3.6% fishing).

Thus, it is how the agricultural sector contributes to social, economic and environmental development and has proven to be one of the most solid pillars of our economy, as it happened during the economic crisis caused by the covid-19 pandemic and is currently doing it with the costs increases of inputs of fertilizers and fossil fuels due to the effects of Russia's invasion of Ukraine,  this even in the face of a very intense drought, which mainly affects the northern part of the Mexico and some regions of central Mexico.

What are the main crops planted in Mexico? What are the agricultural products (produced from crops) exported to other countries?

In 2020 of Mexico's 24.6 million arable hectares (SIAP. Agri-food Panorama 2021), 27% were planted with grain corn, beans, grain sorghum, wheat grain and rice. The largest surface cycle corresponds to Spring – Summer (PV), which is mostly arid and semiarid lands depending on rains (non-irrigated), therefore with very low yields, mainly in grain crops. In contrast, the Autumn –Winter (OI) cycle with an area sown between 2.9 to 3 million hectares, these are mostly irrigated, from water stored in the dams, therefore it is the one with the highest volume of grain production per hectare, since this allows to use better technologies and inputs. 



In matter of foreign trade, Mexico has 14 Free Trade Agreements with 50 countries that make up a potential market of 1,322 million people, with the United States being the most relevant market with exports of agricultural products to this country in 2020 of $31 billion dollars (representing about 79%) of a total of $39 billion dollars of Mexican agricultural products marketed to 192 countries. 

According to official data from the SIAP, the agri-food and agro-industrial balance, 2021, presents a surplus of 7,192 million dollars. (See table 3)



How does the USMCA affect agricultural trade and the agrochemical industry in Mexico?

图1.jpgMexico is one of the main partners of the United States of America, the neighborhood and the huge border, added to the more than 30 million Mexicans who reside in that country, have allowed us to grow every year in terms of export of a wide variety of products, including agricultural products, which reach $31 billion dollars (representing about 79%) of a total exported of $39 billion dollars of Mexican products marketed in 2020 to 192 countries, quantity that for 2021 amounted $44 billion dollars. The USMCA has mainly been strategic to maintain and expand an important growth with a promising vision of business to the future. The phytosanitary industry is a very important engine for the development of the agricultural sector, it allows more production, better pest control, increased profitability, better yields, greater security for producers, better allocation of resources, employment creation, and better quality of life in the Mexican rural countryside.

The phytosanitary industry contributes extensively to the compliance and trade among the members of the USMCA.

What is the impact on agriculture of Mexico's glyphosate ban? If glyphosate disappears from the market, what alternative herbicides are available for farmers to use?

Glyphosate has been used in Mexico since the early 80s in the control of weeds of a wide variety of crops, among which stand out, corn, citrus, coffee, avocado, fruit trees in general, uncultivated areas, gardening, among others. The farmer learned to use it in a targeted way to control all kinds of weeds, with this, the farmer understood that glyphosate became a tool of great value for agricultural production. It should be noted that, due to its versatility, effectiveness, and cost, it helped to avoid erosions in crops, and that previously the weeds were controlled with mechanical / manual tools such as the coa, the hoe and the shovel. Glyphosate has been an important part of "zero tillage" or "conservation tillage" programs and with it, the conservation and improvement of soil structure.

Behind the ban on the use of glyphosate, there are pseudo-scientific groups and political ideologues whom without measuring the consequences for the agriculture, have managed to persuade the authorities in the matter, publishing on December 31, 2020 a DECREE establishing actions to "gradually replace the use, acquisition, distribution, promotion and import of the chemical substance called glyphosate" and prohibiting its definitive import in 2024,  prior or parallel to "the generation of sustainable and culturally appropriate alternatives, which allow to maintain production and are safe for human health, the biocultural diversity of the country and the environment", a situation that under the context of current public policy is unattainable.

The above, despite the large number of international studies from globally recognized institutions, which indicate: "There is no scientific evidence that determines that glyphosate is a cause of cancer in people who apply or manage it" and what is evident, that persistency on the associating in the use of glyphosate with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs),  such as corn, cotton, and soybeans and with it, condemning farmers to unuse such an important chemical weed control tool. 

At UMFFAAC we have insisted that it is important to separate the issue of transgenic seeds from glyphosate.

With glyphosate looming ban, farmers are experimenting with other alternatives that, while not as efficient, may complement integrated weed control management. Glufosinate is one of them, together with some other alternatives such as acetochlor, dicamba, hexazinone, mesotrione, nicosulfuron, paraquat, among others. None has proven to be the efficient alternative against the possible total ban on glyphosate, but it has shown increasing costs for farmers.


Do you think that the promotion and application of organic products can meet the needs of Mexican farmers in terms of crop protection?

The growth of organic crop production is a fact, the population is increasingly interested in knowing the origin of food, how it was grown, where it was packaged, what phytosanitary products were used and, above all, if the crop was developed with "safety", that is where the use of organic or biological phytosanitary products, plays an important role. We cannot ignore the fact that consumer economies are not always commensurate with the costs of organic food. Hardly the use of biological products, will replace conventional ones in the short term, what is a trend is the elimination of phytosanitary red toxicological bands, followed by yellow ones, to gradually leave only those with less toxicity, less environmental impact, zero residues and highly selective. We are already seeing more phytosanitary solutions whose combination of chemical and biological or biological and mineral, are a trend in the portfolio of companies.   

Biological products are an alternative that will require a lot of attention to ensure their benefits and effectiveness. 

What new trends have you observed in Mexican agriculture over the years?

Gradually, agricultural technology companies are approaching Mexico, with more efficient irrigation systems, greenhouse technology, prediction stations for pests and nutritional needs, improved seeds and varieties, drone sprays, satellite images; it is undeniable that we will continue to grow in technological advances derived from the demand of our crops, from the geographical position, from a specialized and efficient workforce and from an imperative need to feed a growing population with less land.

Mexico must develop public policies to promote more and better education in the rural countryside, to potentiate the opportunities of agricultural production avoiding rural migration to large cities. 

The Mexican countryside has great potential that has not been fully exploited. 

Please introduce us to UMFFAAC. What is your main objective and how does UMFFAAC contribute to the sustainable development of the Mexican agrochemical industry?

The Mexican Union of Manufacturers and Formulators of Agrochemicals (UMFFAAC) was born as a Civil Association on September 15, 1976, integrated by companies established in Mexico, organization which represents, defends, and promotes the development of the national industry of crop protection and nutrition; urban, industrial, and public health pest control.

Our objectives are to stimulate the phytosanitary input industry, boost agriculture and the country's economy; promoting food safety and security, public health and zero hunger; training on responsible use of agrochemicals; and promote care for the environment.

Our association is made up of the following companies with scope and services throughout the Mexican Republic:


Currently the Associates of UMFFAAC:

  • Generate more than 4,500 direct jobs and 15,000 indirect jobs

  • Employ more than 650 agronomists

  • Benefit more than 2.8 million producers

  • Contribute to the production of more than 40 crops

  • Benefit more than 220 thousand people from other economic sectors

  • Participate in more than 20 social responsibility programs

  • They maintain strategic alliances with various institutions, among which are: Agrocare Latin America, National Agricultural Council, CropLife, National Institute of Forestry, Agricultural and Livestock Research (INIFAP), National Association of the Chemical Industry (ANIQ), Autonomous University of Chapingo, College of Postgraduates in Agricultural Sciences, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER), National Health Service  Agri-food Safety and Quality (SENASICA), Trusts Instituted in Relation to Agriculture (FIRA), Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute (CINVESTAV) and the Institute for Technological Innovation in Agriculture (Intagri), among others.

This article was initially published in AgroPages' '2022 Latin America Focus' magazine.


Source: AgroNews
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