Climate change, food safety biggest challenges for Mexican agriculture

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Climate change, food safety biggest challenges for Mexican agriculture

The Mexican government says climate change is likely to be one of the biggest challenges growers face in the future, with frost and drought damage expected to become ever more frequent and unpredictable in major production zones.

Weather-related problems have caused huge difficulties for Mexico’s fruit and vegetable producers over recent months.

More than 2,000ha of tomatoes, pumpkins, watermelons and ottomates_on vine_ffpher products were damaged by severe frosts in the north of the country in January, while torrential rains have hit growers in the Guanajuato region during recent weeks.

With this in mind, Mexico’s National Service for Health, Food Safety and Agricultural Food Quality (SENASICA) said it was putting in place support programs to help compensate growers and maintain production levels.

Speaking to, SENASICA’s Hugo Fragoso explained the growing concern from adverse weather.

"The impact of frosts and droughts is becoming ever more frequent and is happening in an unpredictable manner in high production zones," Fragoso said.

"For this reason, the government has proposed the implementation of support progams to compensate men and women working in the countryside and maintain production levels."

Of course, climate change is not the only challenge that Mexico’s fresh produce sector faces. Food safety is now one of the key concerns for international buyers when it comes to the country's produce.

Concern was highlighted in July 2012 when 105 people in the U.S. and 80 in Canada were affected during a major salmonella outbreak linked to contaminated mangoes sourced from the Mexican state of Sinaloa.

Although Fragoso said food safety issues were not the direct responsibility of SENASICA, he explained that the agency had put in place contamination risk reduction systems to ensure such food safety problems were eliminated where possible in the future.

"Through an official prevention initiative, contamination risk reduction systems are being implemented from initial production through to the packing and transportation of fruits and vegetables from Mexico," he said.

This initiative, Fragoso said, was focused on reducing the risk of contamination during fruit and vegetable production and covered 16 elements including company registration, business history, water use, hygienic practices, traceability, fertilization and damage to wildlife, among others.

"The initiative enables us to reduce the danger of the microbiological, chemical or physical contamination of food taking place," he said.

"Moreover, when a suspected contamination happens, an immediate plan of action is put in action to identify the origin of the product concerned and reduce the risk of further contamination."

However, pests and diseases remain a major problem for Mexican growers.

According to a report in regional daily Cambio de Michoacán, approximately 50% of vegetable producers in the state of Michoacán have experienced major problems with pests. Potato psyllid, most notably, has caused significant losses to potato, tomato and chilli pepper crops.

Some 14,612 ha of products fall prey to the pest every year, with total losses estimated to reach more than US$24 million every year due to lost sales and worker wages.

Separately, some 4,800 ha of citrus groves are also reported to have been affected by citrus greening in the southern state of Quintana Roo.

However, Fragoso said that whitefly and potato psyllid, the most common pests for vegetable producers in Michoacán, did not fall under government regulation and so were the responsibility of the producer.

Despite this, he said SENASICA was working in Quintana Roo to control citrus greening, which has been detected in 25 of the 920 citrus orchards in production in the region, equivalent to 2.7% of the production area.

To limit the spread of the disease, Fragoso said chemical and biological pest controls were being used to tackle the presence of Asian citrus psyllids, the insect which spreads citrus greening.


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