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Mexican agriculture and policy under NAFTA


  • George A. Dyer

    (Desarrollo y Alimentación Sustentable, A. C.)

  • Alan Hernández-Solano

    (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)

  • Pablo Meza-Pale

    (Desarrollo y Alimentación Sustentable A.C.
    Instituto Politécnico Nacional)

  • Héctor Robles-Berlanga

    (Subsidios al Campo en México)

  • Antonio Yúnez-Naude

    (Desarrollo y Alimentación Sustentable A.C.
    El Colegio de México)


On the eve of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), models predicted the transformation of Mexican agriculture, with imports precipitating the decline of domestic supply of staples, particularly corn, while fruit-and-vegetable exports drove sectoral growth. Trade flows have met expectations, but Mexican agriculture has not: both staple and specialty crops expanded during NAFTA’s first decade, while their gross value declined; just as unexpectedly, their value has risen sharply since 2005. The Ministry of Agriculture (SAGARPA) has been credited with the apparent success of this export-led strategy, upholding the results-based management (RBM) of sectoral policy abetted by the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL). This study offers a critical assessment of Mexican agricultural policy and its management in light of the sector’s performance during the last 25 years. We report trends in the volume and value of agricultural output, land use, yields and prices. Using simple accounting methods, we show that price decreases accounted entirely for the sector’s decline between 1993 and 2005. Since then, 67.0% of staples’ gross value growth has be linked to rising prices, 27.4% to yield gains, and 5.6% to land-use change. For fruits and vegetables, these figures are 27.3, 50.0 and 22.7%. However, there is little evidence linking agricultural performance and policy. Only staple yields fall within policy’s purview; yet yields of irrigated staples other than corn have stagnated this century. Additional evidence calls into question the success of RBM, including the dearth of diagnoses and impact evaluations supporting it. Their absence has not prevented constant reforms that systematically violate the integrity of the policy cycle. Official acknowledgement of drivers of growth will reveal the risks to Mexican agriculture, including its vulnerability to price fluctuations and reliance on select crops for growth. Academic engagement is a prerequisite for RBM’s success.

Suggested Citation

  • George A. Dyer & Alan Hernández-Solano & Pablo Meza-Pale & Héctor Robles-Berlanga & Antonio Yúnez-Naude, 2018. "Mexican agriculture and policy under NAFTA," Serie documentos de trabajo del Centro de Estudios Económicos 2018-04, El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Económicos.
  • Handle: RePEc:emx:ceedoc:2018-04

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. William Maloney & Daniel Lederman & Luis Servén, 2005. "Lessons from NAFTA: For Latin America and the Caribbean," IDB Publications (Books), Inter-American Development Bank, number 59478, February.
    2. Mark Weisbrot & Stephan Lefebvre & Joseph Sammut, 2014. "Did NAFTA Help Mexico? An Assessment After 20 Years," CEPR Reports and Issue Briefs 2014-03, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).
    3. David G. Abler & Daniel Pick, 1993. "NAFTA, Agriculture, and the Environment in Mexico," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 75(3), pages 794-798.
    4. repec:idb:brikps:59478 is not listed on IDEAS
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    6. Robinson, Sherman & Burfisher, Mary E. & Hinojosa-Ojeda, Raul & Thierfelder, Karen E., 1993. "Agricultural policies and migration in a U.S.-Mexico free trade area: A computable general equilibrium analysis," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 15(5-6), pages 673-701.
    7. Steve Boucher & J. Edward Taylor, 2006. "Subsistence Response to Market Shocks," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 88(2), pages 279-291.
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    More about this item


    Results based management; SAGARPA; CONEVAL; corn; Mexico;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C53 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Forecasting and Prediction Models; Simulation Methods

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