Mexico’s Agriculture Department (Sagarpa) announced an aggressive plan to diversify its agricultural trade amid uncertainty with largest commercial partner, the United States, under President Donald Trump.
Agriculture Secretary Jose Calzada Rovirosa revealed in a conference he’s leading a string of trade visits to Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, meanwhile also meeting with U.S. partners to consolidate deals.
The strategy, Calzada said, is "to look for places to sell and look for countries to buy from to satisfy demand".
According to official figures, United States buys about 78% of Mexico's agrifood exports, or about $24.9 billion worth last year. Mexico imports some $17.9 billion in U.S. agricultural goods.
Calzada said its office is looking at other countries from which to buy key products for which Mexico currently relies on the United States.
“Canada, Russia and the European Union could supply our needs for wheat. Rice could come from Vietnam, Indonesia and Brazil,” he said.
Mexico buys around $1.5 billion in soy products from the U.S., but the country could turn to Argentina and Brazil for such goods, as for pork, Denmark and Brazil could supply the $1.5 billion in yearly imports from the United States, said Calzada, who is also the former Governor of Queretaro State.
"In the face of this circumstance that has been presented with the United States, we have increased and accelerated the visits to these countries with the goal of diversifying even more, and quickly, Mexican imports and also the supply that comes to our country from diverse nations," Calzada said.
The official made clear its push to diversify has nothing to do with U.S. producers. "It has to do with public policies proposed by this new (U.S.) government that have injected uncertainty into the agro-alimentary sector, mainly in their country," he added.
The conference took place the day after leaders of three major U.S. dairy organizations promised to continue a strong commitment to their time-tested partnership with Mexico’s dairy industry and consumers. U.S. agriculture industry reps have been in Mexico this week seeking to consolidate ties despite the uncertainty.
“We have always seen Mexico as a partner first and a customer second,” U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) President and CEO Tom Vilsack told Mexican dairy leaders attending the National Dairy Forum in Mexico City. “That’s why we intend to continue working with you and your industry to expand the consumption of dairy products in a way that benefits both countries.”
“Mexico is our friend, ally and most important trading partner,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “Our goal this week in visiting Mexico is to communicate our steadfast commitment to our partnership with the Mexican industry, even as we continue to explore ways to deepen that relationship by working on issues of mutual benefit.”
“The United States proudly provides the majority of imported dairy products to Mexican consumers,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., President and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, which represents dairy foods companies and their suppliers. “We strongly believe that it’s in the best interest of both countries to preserve and enhance our excellent trade relationship, now and in the future.”
Vilsack and Mulhern spoke at the Femeleche conference, which brought together Mexican dairy industry leaders, farmers and government officials. As part of the coordinated message of collaboration and partnership with Mexico, the three CEOs of the leading U.S. dairy policy organizations are also meeting with a variety of government officials, including the Mexican Minister of Agriculture and the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.
Since NAFTA became law in 1994, U.S. dairy exports to Mexico have more than quadrupled to $1.2 billion. That makes Mexico the U.S. dairy industry’s No. 1 export market, accounting for nearly one-fourth of all U.S. dairy exports last year.
Put another way, exports to Mexico require the milk of 345,000 American cows. They create approximately 30,000 U.S. jobs, according to USDA, and $3.6 billion in U.S. economic impact.