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Despite repeated promises by the administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) that the country will be self-sufficient in the production of corn — Mexico’s main grain — by the end of his six-year term, halfway through his sexenio, the nation continues to import more than a third of its maize demands.

“We are currently importing about 33 to 35 percent of our needs, and by 2024 we hope to reduce imports by 50 percent,” said Mexican Agriculture and Rural Development (Sader) Undersecretary Víctor Suárez in a recent interview with the daily newspaper

Suárez went on to say that Mexico is now self-sufficient in the production of white corn used for tortillas and other Mexican dishes, but not in yellow corn, which is used mainly to feed animals.

The Agricultural Markets Consultant Group (GCMA) reported that in 2020 Mexico imported 18 million tons of corn, representing a record figure in the country’s history.

By 2021, the consultancy estimated that 17 million tons will be purchased from different countries, especially the United States.

The group said that the cause of the increase in imports was largely due to the fact that droughts in much of the country have reduced the viable planting area.

Mexico ranks second worldwide in corn imports.

Currently, the average yield is of four tons per hectare and the government’s goal for 2024 is to reach a production of six tons per hectare.

López Obrador’s targeted agri-food goal is to be self-sufficient in the production of corn, beans, wheat, rice, milk, beef, pork, chicken and eggs.

“Mexico has a dependency of more than 45 percent of the food consumed by the population, and 45 percent of that total is imported from the United States,” said Suárez.

The government’s strategy to achieve food self-sufficiency is to support small and medium farmers and ranchers, who are responsible for the production of 70 percent of the national foodstuff output, he said.

But the production of corn in Mexico has had a slow pace so far in the first half of the year, and the price of tortillas and other corn-baed foods has increased dramatically in recent months.

According to government figures, so far in 2021 less than 7 million tons of corm have been produced, which represents a decrease of 5.2 percent with respect to the production of the same period of 2020.

That average is only expected to get worse by the end of the year.

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