An Agricultural Crisis in Mexico’s Most Fertile Region
By JESSICA GUERRERO
MORELIA, Michoacán — More than four months have passed since Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) announced, in his most recent visit to the region, the implementation of a Support Plan for the central Mexican state, which was suppose to transform the future of the wartorn state by promoting the development of its inhabitants and guaranteeing their safety.
The strategies presented by the federal government involved numerous actions that would be put in place immediately to create favorable conditions to improve the living standard in Michoacán in light of spiraling drug-related violence and a dramatic financial crisis.
However, since then, the situation in the state, specifically in terms of security, has — far from improving — only worsened, paralyzing the local economy and wreaking great economic and social damage in an area already semi-paralized by the covid-19 pandemic.
The constant clashes between organized criminal groups have had a devastating effect on the social and economic strata in the state. On one hand, they have generated a massive exodus in the central and southern Tierra Caliente region, forcing thousands of inhabitants to leave their homes in search of survival after being victims of extortion and threats, caught in the crossfire between local criminal organizations.
The desolation that the security crisis has caused in the state has had enormous effects on the state’s economy, which depends largely on agriculture and livestock. Many local producers of vegetables and fruits have been victims of extortion in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán, known for being one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the country.
Because Michoacán is an agricultural powerhouse at the national level, positioning itself as the leading producer of avocados and limes in the country, the situation that the state is currently facing has caused an unprecedented shortage of these products, affecting the cost of the Mexicans’ basic food basket.
One example of this is the current price of limes, reaching a price of 100 pesos per kilo in some parts of Mexico, when on average the price is normally around 20 pesos in the central Mexico area.
The price surge is the consequence of a major decline in the production of limes during the current winter season, when only 100,000 tons were harvested during the season compared to the 500,000 tons harvested in the same season of 2020. This situation was primarily due to a local labor shortage, heavy rains and an increase in the price of agrochemicals.
Today, many of Michoacán’s lime orchards appear to be in a state of abandonment and decay. Owners and workers have completely halted production in at least 5,000 orchards. Many of these people now make up part of the thousands of displaced people who have left their hometowns in search of peace and tranquility for their families, taking refuge in northern Mexico while waiting for the government of the United States to approve their asylum applications.
In addition to this, some farmers in the region who have decided to stay in the state have also reported the dispossession of their lands by local criminal groups, which have taken possession of large areas of cultivation that previously produced a vegetables for local consumption.
The response of both the federal and local governments has been basically inexistent in the face of a problem that continues to escalate in a similar way in different regions of the country, where a generalized security crisis continues to permeate social and economic life on all levels.
The execution of the Support Plan for Michoacán is still on hold while the trust of the citizens of Michoacán in their newly elected leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party governor, Alfredo Ramírez Bedolla, fades away day after day.
The longstanding security policy adopted by López Obrador of “hugs, not bullets” seems to keep the authorities in charge of the security comfortable and indifferent to the major crime issues affecting Mexicans on a daily basis, but is doing little to alleviate the increasing violence that normal citizens are facing, and that is being felt in the pocketbooks of all Mexicans.