Mexico - Agriculture
In 1999, agriculture employed 23 percent of Mexico's labor force but accounted for only 5 percent of Mexico's GDP. Crop production was and continues to be the most important agricultural activity in Mexico, accounting for fully 50 percent of agricultural output. Domestically, the most important crops for consumption purposes are wheat, beans, corn, and sorghum. The most important crops for export purposes are sugar, coffee, fruits, and vegetables. Mexico continues to be one of the top producers of crops in the world. In 1999, the crops produced in greatest number in Mexico were sugar cane (46.81 billion tons), corn (15.72 billion tons), sorghum (5.59 billion tons), wheat (3 billion tons), and beans (1.04 billion tons). Fruits and vegetables are the most economically significant agricultural products exported by Mexico. For example, in 1998 Mexico's export of fruits and vegetables to the United States generated revenues of US$2.86 billion while meat and fish exports generated US$.71 billion, and coffee and cocoa US$682 million.
In comparison to its crop production, livestock accounts for 30 percent of Mexico's agricultural output. In 1999, livestock or livestock products produced in greatest number were milk (8.96 billion liters), poultry (1.72 billion tons), eggs (1.63 billion tons), and beef (1.39 billion tons). Mexico is not self-sufficient in the production of meat and fish. In 1998 it imported US$1.05 billion of meat and fish from the United States.
There are at least 3 reasons why Mexico has enjoyed some success in its crop production over the past 5 years. First, there is much land that is available to grow crops. Mexico has been able to increase the land that it uses for crops from 3.70 million acres in 1950 to 8.64 million acres in 1965 because of irrigation programs instituted by the government in the 1940s and 1950s. Second, there have been changes in the land ownership system that were instituted by President Salinas in 1992. Under the Constitution of 1917, land was distributed by the government to a community of peasants called an ejido , whose members owned the land but could not lease or sell it. In the face of increasing importation of food and decreased agricultural output, President Salinas was successful in getting the Mexican Constitution amended to give the members of the ejido the right to lease or sell the land if most of the members of the ejido agreed to do so. The purpose of this change was to allow ejidos to combine to form large efficient farms. Millions of acres of ejido land have now been transferred and a substantial amount of money has now been invested in the agricultural sector by private investors in their efforts to buy or lease ejido land. A third reason why Mexico has enjoyed an increase in crop production over the past few years is because under the Procampo program, the government now makes cash payments directly to farmers and they can then determine which crops they want to produce. The program has encouraged Mexican farmers to produce crops like wheat and sorghum as well as fruits and vegetables instead of the more profitable corn and beans. This program will be phased out from 2003 to 2008.
Although Mexico's agricultural production has increased over the past few years, there are some who would argue that there is still much work to be done in the Mexican agricultural sector. The growth rate in the agricultural sector has recently been below the growth rate of the rest of the Mexican economy. The sector has gone from a high of 5.8 percent of GDP in 1993 to its present low of 4.5 percent of GDP in 1999. In addition, Mexico exported more than it imported in agricultural products from 1992 through 1997. In 1998 it imported US$845 million more than it exported; its net agricultural imports were US$364 million in 1999. But the changes instituted in the early 1990s have had positive effects and will continue to offer a positive trend for the agricultural sector.