Other Crops

Mexico Table of Contents

Between 1990 and 1993, Mexico's soybean output fluctuated with the amount of land sown. For the 1992-93 growing season, 313,000 hectares were sown in soybeans, producing 578,000 tons. Mexico's soybean imports generally exceeded domestic production in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in some years by a wide margin. The country imported 2.1 million tons of soybeans in 1992 and 1993, mainly from the United States. In 1991 Mexico imported US$348 million worth of soybeans.

Between 1989 and 1993, Mexico's cottonseed output fell from 617,000 tons to 75,000 tons, and its total area harvested fell from 255,000 hectares to 42,000 hectares. In 1993 Mexico imported 180,000 tons of cottonseed. Peanut output averaged 104,000 tons between 1988 and 1992; the 1993 harvest of 80,000 hectares produced 108,000 tons of peanuts. Mexico produced 195,000 tons of copra and 10,000 tons of sunflower seed in 1993. Mexico also produced green chilies, green beans, and green peas.

Mexico's raw sugar industry was reorganized and modernized during the early 1980s. As a result, raw sugar production reached 40 million tons in the 1985-86 growing season, exceeding the 1982-83 harvest by 50 percent. Sugar output declined thereafter because of trade liberalization, price controls, and high credit costs. Bad weather in late 1989 and uncertainties resulting from privatization of state sugar mills also depressed production. Sugar output fell from 42 million tons in 1988 to 35 million tons in 1990, then recovered slightly to 40 million tons (from 530,000 hectares of sugarcane) in 1993. Declining domestic production forced Mexico to import large amounts of sugar to satisfy domestic demand. In 1991 it imported 1.3 million tons of sugar. Mexico's sugar harvest in 1994-95 was 4.3 million tons, and the following year's harvest was expected to rise to 4.4 million tons.

Coffee was introduced into Mexico during the nineteenth century. Mexican coffee is mainly the arabica type, which grows particularly well in the Pacific coastal region of Soconusco, near the Guatemalan border. In the early 1990s, the southern state of Chiapas was Mexico's most important coffee-growing area, producing some 45 percent of the annual crop of 275,000 tons. More than 2 million Mexicans grew coffee, most barely subsisting. Seventy-five percent of Mexico's coffee growers worked plots of fewer than two hectares. These small cultivators produced about 30 percent of the country's annual harvest; larger and more efficient farms produced the rest.

During the 1980s, coffee became Mexico's most valuable export crop. In 1985 coffee growers produced 4.9 million sixty-kilogram bags, and coffee exports earned US$882 million at the unusually high world price of US$0.90 per kilogram. Thereafter output fluctuated between 5.6 million bags and 4.4 million bags. As international coffee prices rose further, the government in 1988 encouraged coffee growers, especially in Chiapas, to increase output and expand the area under cultivation. It tried to increase production by offering easy credit to coffee growers and by converting forested land into ejidos for cultivation by poor coffee growers.

International coffee prices fell 50 percent between 1989 and 1993. Lower prices combined with the elimination of coffee subsidies to reduce the income of coffee growers by an estimated 65 percent. Lower prices reduced Mexico's export income from coffee to about US$370 million by 1991. They also depressed coffee production, which fell from 5.2 million bags in 1992 to 4.1 million bags in 1993.

Although cotton had lost its traditional overwhelming dominance of the export market by the 1990s, it remained--along with fresh fruits and vegetables--a major cash crop of Mexico's irrigated lands. Cotton output fell from some 1.8 million bales in 1973 to 1.4 million bales in 1989, and to 800,000 bales in 1990. The cotton industry's poor performance in the late 1980s and early 1990s resulted mainly from bad weather, low world prices, and depressed domestic demand resulting from slow growth in Mexico's textile industry. In 1992 the total area sown in cotton was 42,000 hectares, down sharply from 250,000 hectares in 1991. Mexico's cotton output in 1993 was just over 30,000 tons, down from nearly 181,000 tons in 1992. Export revenue from cotton fell from US$113 million in 1988 to US$77 million in 1991. By 1995-96, Mexico's cotton crop had recovered to 193 million tons, and the 1996-97 harvest was forecast at 266 million tons.

Mexico's cocoa production declined from 57,000 tons in 1988 to 43,500 tons in 1993. The total area harvested in tobacco rose from 18,700 hectares in 1992 to 34,000 hectares in 1993, while the total farm sales weight of tobacco fell from 38,250 tons in 1992 to 29,800 tons in 1993. Tobacco exports earned some US$44 million in 1991.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress