USDA highlights growing organic produce niche in Mexico
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a report outling Mexico as an 'attractive' market for U.S. organic food exporters, with a growing number of consumers pursuing healthier lifestyles.
The USDA's encouraging comments show that Southern Hemisphere organic fruit producers could also benefit from this niche market.
The report says Mexico's status as the world's second-most obese nation has led the goverment to introduce measures to stem the trend, such as educational campaigns and food nutrition laws targeting school children.
"As a result, a growing number of Mexican consumers are pursuing healthier lifestyles which include better eating habits. That is why many retail outlets have introduced a variety of healthy and/or organic food products on their shelves," the report said.
"There are also a growing number of consumers that are “green” and making purchasing decisions based on whether the food items are grown in environmentally-friendly and sustainable ways."
Despite the opportunities for exporters the report pointed to several obstacles such as higher prices, lack of knowledge about organic products, doubts of integrity, placement of organic products with conventional products at point of sale, low availability and low investment levels to promote the sector.
The report said the market needed strategies to convince the public of the benefits and quality of organic produce, while also increasing point of sale exhibition of organic produce.
"Organic production in Mexico is composed mainly of small and medium-sized family farms or cooperatives. Distributors tend to handle all negotiations with retail stores and ensure that organic producers receive fair prices for their products, which contributes significantly to the sustainability of many rural communities," the report said.
"The success of organic agriculture in Mexico and its growth can be explained by a combination of factors including demand and access to premium prices in the international market; better incomes; the high prevalence of traditional agriculture in Mexico that facilitates conversion to organic production; and the indigenous connection many farmers have with mother earth.
"The Mexican organics market is still relatively small compared to other countries but is growing at a rapid pace. The distribution channels for organics are still primarily specialty stores, internet sales, small sections in select supermarkets, and weekly farmers markets such is the Mexican Tianguis and Organic Markets Network (REDAC) coordinated by the Center for Economic, Social & Technological Research for the Agro industry and World Agriculture (CIESTAAM) of the University of Chapingo."