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There are alternatives…

12 April 2007

I lost my shirt (and everything else) trying to get Mexican agriculture away from it’s “joined at the hip” relationship to the U.S. (in a small way:  at least getting Michocán avocados into French supermarkets).  I can’t say it was the primary intention of a new USDA and NAFTA regulation, but effectively small buyers, working on credit, were shut out of the market, unless they went through the largest U.S. avocado buyers — Calavo or Mission.  Oh well, I’m over it.  NOT.

I was happy to see (in a twisted way) the news that the U.S. rice growers were screaming bloody murder when Mexico rejected buying their rice — mostly because of Mexico’s own ban on genetically modified agricultural products. 

Last month the U.S. Rice Federation was lobbying the U.S. Embassy to “do something”. 

The Mexicans did: 

(Associated Press of Pakistan)

ISLAMABAD, Apr 12 (APP): Federal Minister for Food Agriculture and Livestock (MINFAL), Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan said on Thursday that resumption of rice export to Mexico would be a great breakthrough for the country. He stated this after meeting with a Maxcian delegation, led by Maxcian Foreign Affairs Vice Minister, Maria De Lourdes Aranda Bezaury, which called on him here.

Secretary MINFAL, Muhammad Ismail Qureshi and other senior officials of the ministry were also present on the occasion.

Earlier Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan briefed the Maxcian Vice Minister about the measures taken by the government for the promotion of agriculture sector in the country.

Bosan said that the two-third population living in the rural areas is dependent on agriculture for their income.

He added that 60 percent exports are related to agriculture sector.

Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan said that Pakistan and Mexico enjoy cordial relations and stressed the need for further enhancing these relations specially in trade and investment sector between them.

He said that Pakistan produces the best quality rice and wanted its exports to Mexico for mutual benefit.

He thanked the visiting Mexican Vice Minister for her assurance in resolving the Pakistani rice export issue to Mexico.

The Minister also thanked her for offering short-term and long-term scholarships to Pakistani agricultural scientists/experts adding that Pakistan wanted to take benefit from experience of Mexico in the field of agriculture.

The Mexican Foreign Affairs Vice Minister assured Pakistan for resolving the rice export issue .

She also called for exchange of visits among the agricultural experts between the two countries.

She also called for exploring new avenues in the areas of agri business, rice, training and exchange of agro-businessmen between the two countries.

People are sometimes surprised to hear this, but Mexicans consume huge amounts of rice.  No, Mexicans do not serve “Spanish rice” (and neither do the Spaniards), but rice was an 18th century Spanish import, and is a basic part of the Mexican diet.  The first course of a main meal is usually caldo — the “wet soup”, which often as not has some rice floating around.  Usually, the second course at the main meal (sopa seca — “dry soup”) is a plate of rice — maybe with a sliced banana or a fried egg if you’re being fancy.  The main course might be  arroz con pollo.  And for dessert?  Arroz con leche… rice with cream and sugar, or a nice budin — what we’d call “rice pudding.”  Despite being rice-a-holics (made more severe by the Chinese immigration of the late 19th century), Mexico has never been a huge rice producer.  Pakistan is in the top ten rice-exporting countries.

Two things that are interesting here. First, Mexico is going around NAFTA, at least in agricultural imports.  We always assumed — and apparently the U.S. Rice Board assumed — that Mexico would have to buy from the highly subsidized U.S./Canadian agricultural multinationals.  You know what they say about the word “assume” — it makes an ASS of U and MEWe were shocked when the Mexican Navy bought Russian planes, but as far back as Porfirio Diaz, the Mexicans have bought advanced technology from a basket of foreign suppliers to avoid getting locked into dependence on any one country or system. 

We might think of that when we start talking about PEMEX … It’s actually a larger oil company than Exxon-Mobil, and while it’s desperately in need of refinancing and restructuring, there ain’t no way it’s gonna be bought up by a U.S. or other multinational.  It IS doing joint ventures with the Norweigan and Brazilian state oil companies, and Congress is looking at restructuring that will let the company keep more of its profits for technical upgrades. 

The second interesting thing is that Pakistan is the partner in this deal.  Vicente Fox did one good thing during his tenure — acting as a salesman for his country.  But Fox was unimaginative in looking for customers … going to the same usual sources — the U.S., Europe, Japan (the only really new and exciting customer was New Zealand, which sells milk powder and luxury dairy products to Mexico).  One of Lopez Obradór’s “50 point program” was to increase foreign trade outside the NAFTA region … specifically in Latin America and Asia. 

What’s unusual is that Pakistan is the “poor country” (ranked near the bottom of “developing countries”) and Mexico the “rich” one (either near the bottom of the “developed world” or the top of the “developing world”) in this deal.  Bypassing the usual suspect — China (one of the few countries that does not have good relations with Mexico) and both countries potentially benefitting. 

And, besides, who wants Gringo rice?


Man does not blog by rice alone…or even tortillas and rice:

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