Saturday, January 27, 2007

Corn, Corn, Corn - Where has all the Corn gone?

Below is more evidence that government mandates generating superficial demand destroy the free-market economy:

NEZAHUALCOYOTL, Mexico -- Thick, doughy tortillas roll hot off the conveyor belt all day at Aurora Rosales's little shop in this congested city built on a dry lake bed east of Mexico City.
Using cooking techniques that date to the Mayan empire, Rosales has never altered her recipe. Nor did her father, grandfather or great-grandfather.

On good days, the neighbors line up for her tortillas.

But these are not good days, and sometimes hours pass without any customers.
Mexico is in the grip of the worst tortilla crisis in its modern history. Dramatically rising international corn prices, spurred by demand for the grain-based fuel ethanol, have led to expensive tortillas. That, in turn, has led to lower sales for vendors such as Rosales and angry protests by consumers.

The uproar is exposing this country's outsize dependence on tortillas in its diet -- especially among the poor -- and testing the acumen of the new president, Felipe Calderón. It is also raising questions about the powerful businesses that dominate the Mexican corn market and are suspected by some lawmakers and regulators of unfair speculation and monopoly practices.

Tortilla prices have tripled or quadrupled in some parts of Mexico since last summer. On Jan. 18, Calderón announced an agreement with business leaders capping tortilla prices at 78 cents per kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, less than half the highest reported prices. The president's move was a throwback to a previous era when Mexico controlled prices -- the government subsidized tortillas until 1999, at which point cheap corn imports were rising under the NAFTA trade agreement. It was also a surprise given his carefully crafted image as an avowed supporter of free trade.

Read the entire Washington Times article here.

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