water - free trade can't create it
DrMarty | January 28, 2012 at 06:24 amby
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According to Emilio Romero Polanco, of the Economic Research Institute (IIEc) at Mexico's National Autonomous University (UNAM), more than 2.5 million Mexicans are threatened with starvation, unless immediate steps are taken to address the devastating drought now afflicting 50% of the country's municipalities.
The crisis is so severe, that in the states of Chihuahua, Zacatecas, and Durango, 25,000 children have stopped attending school, according to the National Federation of Associations of Heads of Households.
Families that depend on agriculture have no money to buy food and other necessities, or make the voluntary monetary contributions to allow children to go to school.
Romero blames global warming for the drought and suggests that one viable solution would be to transfer agriculture from the northern (most productive) region, to the central and southern regions, where there is more water.
The government, in fact, has already begun doing this. Romero portrays an alarming picture, warning that food shortages and hunger in Mexico could produce the same social and political upheaval that wracked countries like Haiti, Vietnam, Egypt, or Sudan.
He estimates that drought has destroyed at least 1.4 mn. hectares (approx. 3.5 mn acres) of food crops, coming on top of 2011's loss of 3.2 mn. tons of corn, 600,000 tons of beans, and 60,000 head of cattle.
In the state of Tamaulipas, 70% of the grain harvest was lost; 40,000 cattle died in Durango, and unless water and forrage is made available, another 500,000 could die, Romero warned.
He also pointed out that last year, Mexico exported $10 billion worth of agricultural products, yet imported $21 bn worth of food to meet domestic need.
Now, other experts report that the steep decline in both national and global corn production, combined with export restrictions in Russia and Argentina and the increasing, foolish use of corn for ethanol production in the U.S., make it likely that Mexico won't even be able to import the corn it needs for human consumption.
What it does import will be at an astronomical price -- putting the national staple, the tortilla, out of reach of much of the population.
The dimensions of the crisis have apparently spurred President Felipe Calderon into action.
After arguing a few weeks ago that his government couldn't possibly come up with 10 billion pesos for drought relief, he announced on Jan. 24 that he would allocate 33.8 billion ($2.5 billion) this year, and ordered state governments to guarantee immediate disbursement of funds to the neediest sectors. Approximately 250,000 high-protein emergency food kits have also been distributed to the most affected states.
But a loud chorus can be heard to say, too many Mexicans anyway. When they pass it will be easier for private interests to buy up the nation's land.
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