Who is to blame for Rising Corn Prices in Mexico?

Andrew Leonard of How the World Works makes an interesting argument about corn tortilla prices in Mexico. (If you did not know already, corn prices have been rising steeply in Mexico) Most of the initial blame has been on the diversion of corn to ethanol production, but Leonard fingers a deeper problem.

Much Ado about tortillas and ethanol

Quintana said that when tortilla prices rose in January, the government blamed ethanol. But there were other factors, including an increasing demand for grain by livestock owners, increases in gasoline and electricity prices, and the dominant role in the corn marketplace enjoyed by the American agribusinesses Cargill and Archer-Daniels-Midland, which owns a big stake in Mexico’s biggest tortilla maker, Gruma. As an example, Quintana asserted that Cargill and Gruma had sold 98 million tons of white corn originally intended for human consumption as livestock feed. The diversion of that corn played a critical role in pumping up tortilla prices.

Just a reminder, it takes 25 pounds of corn to make one pound of beef (Yes, It’s what’s for dinner!)

“Just to give you an idea, for each 30-ton container of corn that Cargill imports to Mexico we send back two undocumented migrants from the countryside.”

Interesting point, lost to most American policy makers who rail against immigration, I presume. That’s the beauty of “Free Trade”. The word “free” masks all kinds of inequalities, because “free” can’t be bad, right? The opposite of “free” is “enslaved”, that’s got to be bad, right? How can you be against “free” trade? What, do you support slavery?

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