Mexico: Calderon responds to “tortilla crisis”

On Jan. 18 center-right Mexican president Felipe Calderon Hinojosa and a group of business executives signed an agreement to hold the price of corn at 8.5 pesos ($0.78) per kilogram. The plan for de facto price controls, a shift from Calderon’s free market agenda, came after corn prices jumped from about six pesos in most of 2006 to 10 pesos ($0.90) in January. The “Agreement to Stabilize the Price of the Tortilla” will be in effect until April 30, when it will be subject to review. (AP; La Jornada, Jan. 19)

The government and Mexico’s giant corn distributors say they can’t explain the dramatic jump in prices, but corn producers blame speculation and increased dependence on trade with the US and other countries. On Jan. 17 farmer and campesino organizations announced plans for a “megamarch” in Mexico City on Jan. 31 with demands that include an investigation of the price rise and the exclusion of grain from the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). “If there’s no corn, the country’s done for,” supporters chanted while the demonstration was being announced in a press conference in front of the Economic Secretariat in Mexico City. Jan. 31 is the anniversary of a huge anti-NAFTA march in 2003, one of the largest demonstrations by farmers and campesinos in Mexican history. (La Jornada, Jan. 18)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 21

See our last posts on Mexico and the tortilla crisis.