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Mexico threatens corn ban against the US

Mexico says it is planning to switch corn suppliers and buy from Brazil and Argentina rather than from the United States, in a retaliation snub against President Trump.

If this plan is implemented it will mean billions of dollars will be lost to the US economy hitting farmers where it hurts the most, in the pocket.

Photo: Henk Riswick
Photo: Henk Riswick

Mexico is one of the largest importers of corn from the US and imported $2.578 billion worth of corn in the 2016 calendar year and $2.4 billion worth of corn in 2015. From September to December 2016 Mexico imported 4.412 million tons of corn from the US which was the highest export of the crop from the US to any country. Japan was the second largest importer of US corn in the same period with a 3.531 million tons shipment. South Korea was next importing 1.947 million tons and Colombia was fourth with 1.407 million tons imported.

The financial figures have escalated from an estimated $390m following the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which was put into place in 1995. But now it could potentially drop to zero if Mexico does what it is threatening and instead buy grain from Argentina and Brazil.

During an anti-Trump protest in Mexico City, Mexican senator Armando Rios Piter, who leads a congressional committee on foreign relations, said he will introduce a bill this week where Mexico will buy corn from Brazil and Argentina instead of from the US.

Speaking on CNN he said: "I'm going to send a bill for the corn that we are buying in the Midwest and, change to Brazil or Argentina. It's a good way to tell them that this hostile relationship has consequences, hope that it changes." Although this ban is only in a legislative stage it could have severe consequences for the US corn grower. However, the Department of Agriculture in the United States, the USDA said it would not comment on the threat.

A USDA spokeswoman said: “I can confirm for you that the United States exported nearly $2.6 billion of corn ($2.578 billion) in the 2016 calendar year. “However, we are not able to comment or speculate on pending policy actions by a foreign government.” Tacos, made of corn, are very popular in Mexico and are available in all manners of restaurants and street cafes there.

The move is said to be in retaliation to President Trump telling Mexico it must pay for a wall between the two countries and threatening it with import tariffs between 20% and 30%.

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