[Fwd: Re: NAFTA and Mexican Produce]

Since for some reason this wasn't posted, I'm sending it again.

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(Glen) wrote:
> I have read a few references to the impact of NAFTA in increasing
> 'investment' in Mexican produce by traditionally 'American' agricultural
> producers, and the probably related increase in the Mexican product share in
> winter and early spring produce market.
> Potentially related to this is one of our organic produce suppliers pointing
> out that his higher amount of Mexican produce was because his American
> (Californian) suppliers were buying farms "just across the border from their
> farms" for "better weather conditions!"  He pointed out further that these
> farms are meeting the 'same standards' as their American counterparts.
> Questions:
> Does anyone know of any good information about what extent the probability
> of American agriculture investments in Mexico is impacting social justice
> issues in Mexico? If it is a less than ideal situation, are any co-ops doing
> anything with regards to changing produce mix, member education or political
> action?

The companies "investing" are varied.  Some are owned by Americans of
Mexican descent who know the area and feel comfortable in Mexico, and
most are associating with established Mexican farmers. The social
justice / injustice issues have more to do with the bottom line of the
particular company involved and who is administrating these investments,
which in general are expansions of existing operations.  Meaning: 
There's not that much difference between a commercial focus on one side
of the border and the same beast on the other.  

We ourselves are involved in a project to develop links between
co-operative growers groups here in Mexico and cooperative consumers,
workers or housing co-ops on the U.S. and Canadian sides, and we believe
that this is the way to come closest to "social justice".  I put that in
quotes because the biggest injustice of all is that of no jobs and
creating jobs requires investment that must come from outside Mexico to
a significant degree.  Therefore, the purpose of NAFTA was (at least
from this side of the border) to establish a legal framework for
tri-national trade and a mechanism for resolving disputes originating
from a lack of adherence to whatever rules of the game were
established.  This was necessary to provide security for anyone
investing in and exporting from Mexico to the U.S. or Canada, be they
nationals of one country or another.  The existence of shared standards
and the increased flow of trade and communications, reinforces the
tendancy towards reducing pre-existing differences in standards and
practices except where appropriate.  

Many of you may feel my point of view is naive or idealized but I can
assure you that these changes and any progress that may result will not
be gratuitious but rather, the result of hard fought battles made
possible by having established rules of the game.  I can't speak for the
U.S. but from the Mexican perspective, the interests of multinational
corporations (big business) were not paramount to the the negociations. 
Most Mexican products are produced by micro, small and medium sized
family companies and the percentage of cooperative organizations is much
higher here than in the U.S.  Unfortunately, the U.S. business interests
that are doing the investing in Mexico are mostly looking for and
working with private, larger companies here, but that's only becauese
they don't feel comfortable with the collective / demcratic culture
surrounding Mexican coops, ejidos and agrarian communities.  So where do
the U.S. & Canadian Co-ps stand?  Where's THEIR investment?  Being
against NAFTA on principle doesn't resolve anything.  It's a matter of
WHO is investing and what are their criteria / goals!
> Does anyone have any further information on the 'organic farms expanding
> just over the border issue?'  I hate to not trust a supplier, but this
> sounds fishy to me.

> Glen
> Mifflin St. Community Co-op

Just over the border leaves out most of Mexico, but you don't have to
get too far from the border to get a climatic advantage, depending in
part on where you happen to be in the U.S.  Some of the oldest organic
operations I'm aware of are locating in the Baja California Sur, but
some are farther on down in the major commercial growing areas in Mexico
of Sinaloa and Nayarit.  Since there's no appreciable market for organic
foods in Mexico as yet, organic products are grown for export and that
means that somebody up north has already commited to buying those
products and may be sharing production costs.  Until a few years ago,
U.S. organic certification inspectors had to be brought down and that
represented a costly expense.  However, there was a course given by the
OCIA a few years back that was assisted by 50 hopefuls from all over
Latin America - from Patagonia to Mexico and a few Mexican inspectors
were accredited, which reduces certification costs for Mexican Organic
growers.  The standards are the same - audit trails, inspection process
etc.; and the Mexican Federal Regulations conform to the provisions of
the U.S. Organic Production Act (which is why the Mexican Standards
exist, since the U.S. law requires that the exporting country have a
similar legal infrastructure in place.  As I said, there's no market yet
in Mexico for products labled organic.  On the other hand, much of the
produce available locally - almost all of which is fresh, not frozen or
canned, is grown naturally when feasible.  However, there IS a lack of
biological inputs when crop problems must be dealt with, although BT and
some beneficial organisms ar available, if not heavily used).  

I suggest that any doubts related to actual practices can be addressed
to the importer, who should be able to tell you what assurrances are
being used to verify organicness, or directly to the grower.  If
language is a problem (or if anyone prefers for any other reason to do
this), we would be glad to follow up on requests and check out a given
situation, so feel free to ask for futher information from or about


Douglas M. Hinds, Director General
Centro para el Desarrollo Comunitario y Rural A.C. (CeDeCoR)
(Center for Community and Rural Development) - (non profit)
Petronilo Lopez No. 73 (Street Address)
Apdo. Postal No. 61 (Mailing Address)
Cd. Guzman, Jalisco 49000 MEXICO
U.S. Fax Mailbox:  1 630 300 0555
Tel. & Fax:  011 523 413 5222 (not functioning properly)
Tel. & Fax:  011 523 412 6308 (preferred for voice calls)
e-mail: cedecor@ipnet.com.mx, dmhinds@acnet.net, dhinds@.ucol.mx

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