Mexico is one of the world’s leading agricultural producers

Mexico is a vast country which, thanks to its biodiversity, ranks in 10th place among the world’s agricultural powers.

Nearly 13% of the Mexican EAP (economically active population) works in farm production, and the contribution of crop and livestock farming to the country’s GDP plays a leading role in the Mexican economy.

Key figures for crop and livestock farming in Mexico :

  • 10th nation in the world for food production
  • 4%: contribution of agriculture to GDP
  • 4%: annual growth rate in the past three years
  • 17 ha: average size of farms
  • National surface area of 1.9 M km2 - 54% is agricultural (the latest census indicates an 18% increase in agricultural area.
  • An active population of 52.9 M people – 6.7 M work in the farming sector
  • 97% of crops are grown in the open air and 3% (17,388 production units) under cover (greenhouses, tunnels, shade nets).
  • 2.3% of national vegetable production is farmed under cover.

Agricultural production in Mexico is considered a two-speed market in which requirements for agricultural equipment and technology vary widely depending on the type and size of farms. We can distinguish between:

  1. Highly diversified farms which cultivate crops intensively;
  2. Farms with less activity, often depending on manual labour and whose production caters mainly to local demand.

Approximately 70% of agricultural production is still harvested by hand, less than 20% of cultivated land is irrigated and, out of the 27.5 million ha planted, 66.8% are fertilised.

However, six states represent 43% of the total of fertilised land: Jalisco (8.3%), Sinaloa (8.1%), Veracruz (7.2%), Michoacán (6.8%), Chihuahua (6.8%) and Guanajuato (5.9%). These states are home to most of the large farms which produce for export. Mexico is thus:

  • Number 1 worldwide producer of avocados, lemons and limes;
  • 3rd largest producer in the world of grapes;
  • 5th largest worldwide producer of beans and oranges.

A large proportion of production is exported, mainly to the United States (85%). The main products exported include:

  1. Avocados, Tomatoes, Chili peppers
  2. Blueberries, Lemons
  3. Onions
  4. Beef, Berries, Walnuts

Livestock farming is one of the most dynamic segments of the Mexican primary sector. It accounts for approximately 30.6% of primary sector GDP.
110 million hectares are dedicated to livestock farming in the country.

Production mainly focuses on milk, beef and poultry. Thanks to its natural resources, the variety of livestock breeds, existing infrastructure and its labour, Mexico occupies the 7th place worldwide for animal protein production.

In 2016, revenue of the livestock segment amounted to €26 billion.
The volume of livestock in the country comprises:

  • 34,2 M head of cattle
  • 16.7 M head of pigs
  • 549.2 M head of poultry
  • 8.7 M head of sheep.

Farming methods

For certain types of production, particularly those dedicated to export, technology plays a decisive role.

The largest farm operators, mainly located in the North in the centre of the country (states of Guanajuato, Sinaloa and Jalisco), are starting to show greater awareness towards the themes of preservation and sustainable management of resources on a backdrop of increased productivity, improved working conditions for workers and product demand, and are using technology to address them.

They deploy precision farming which mainly uses technologies such as:

  1. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS);
  2. Satellite and/or aerial images;
  3. Autonomous tractors;
  4. Drones.

Certain small farms working with export have turned their hand to organic crop farming and obtaining international certification, exports of this type of product are more profitable and growing fast, in particular to the USA, which is by far their leading client, but also to Europe. This is the case of certain avocados producers who deploy a vertical organisation to make avocado powder, for example.

In the fishery and aquaculture sector there are 10 National Centres for Innovation and Technology Transfer which have an impact on 36 strategic production chains.

SIMA in Mexico

The United States are the main destination for Mexican farm produce, and Mexico is the leading supplier of agricultural products to the USA, followed by Canada and the European Union. 70% of Mexican avocado production is exported to the United States; as is 91% of blueberry production.

Considering this close relationship, many Mexican producers take part in North American tradeshows, in particular PMA Fresh Summit and World AgExpo.

However, French tradeshows are today becoming essential events in the agricultural sector for Mexican producers and firms. Indeed, French products benefit from a positive image, they are perceived as being products that are suited to the trends of environmental protection and energy efficiency.

The French product range is mainly acknowledged for its agricultural machinery, tilling technology, genetics, pesticides and seeds which are the leading themes of interest to Mexican producers. SIMA is seen as an exhibition that allows participants to capitalise on the experience and reputation of the French offering in these fields and offers them access to it.

Author: Lourdes Cerezo, Agrotech Export Adviser, Business France Mexico

Sources:
World Bank Data- MEXICO
Encuesta Nacional Agopecuaria, INEGI 2017: Infographies “Agicultura a Cielo Abierto”, “Agricultura protegida”, “Ganado Bovino”
SIAP – SAGARPA (2017 and 2018) (Ministry of Agriculture)
Panorama Agroalimentario | Carne de bovino 2017 (SAGARPA)