Sunday, November 6, 2011

Yucatan Livestock Still Being Threatened by Drought

Facing the possible loss of their reputation as a safe and healthy source of meat and agricultural products, Yucatan producers, joined by advocacy organizations, are determined to do what they can to maintain their current favorable status. A negative rating would effectively close off regional ports to locally raised livestock and farm products, and destroy a good reputation earned over many years, they say.
During a tour of eastern Yucatan ranches, Mario Mena Godoy, president of a livestock producers organization, emphasized that the loss of rating would place at risk an industry which produces over 25,000 tons of meat products annually, with an estimated gross value of $717 million pesos. Although this output is very significant to the local agricultural economy, Yucatan State contributes only about 1.7% of all meat products produced in Mexico, Godoy said, and there is room for growth.

During a visit to three local ranches, Godoy told PAN Senator Beatriz Zavala Peniche that many local producers were abandoning the livestock industry due to the difficulty of accessing credit to purchase agriculture machinery and equipment which would allow them to utilize the latest technology in their operations. Livestock and agriculture represent 4.4 per cent of the Yucatan’s PIB (gross domestic product).
“We don’t understand why the State doesn’t do anything to help us,” complained Godoy. “We’ve lost our competitiveness [in the Yucatan], we’re one of the lowest job-producing states in the country and now we’re facing the loss of our reputation as a healthy and safe producer of meat and agricultural products.” Godoy lays some of these problems at the doorstep of Yucatan’s Governor, Ivonne Ortega, who he claims has little interest in agrarian matters. Another participant in the ranch tour, Gerardo Escaroz Soler, said that the State government’s failure to comply with federal health regulations pertaining to meat and agricultural production precipitated the problem, and now diminishes chances for federal aid to the troubled industries.
But governmental inaction may not be the only problem faced by livestock producers. Long-term drought conditions, among other factors, have helped put the industry in critical shape, precipitating a dramatic decline in wholesale prices – down to as little as five pesos per kilo in some weekly cattle auctions Godoy says that local producers would rather sell their herds for almost nothing than see them die on the hoof. “Commercial meat production needs urgent attention,” he added, referring to the estimated 10,000 cattle lost in eastern Yucatan in 2010 due to persistent drought. Proposals by agricultural advocates and legislators have included the modernization of irrigation systems used on some ranches, collective feedlots which could hold up to 10,000 head of cattle as they are fattened for slaughter, and the cultivation of hardy, drought-resistant grains which could feed herds during prolonged adverse conditions.
Lic. Edward V. Byrne

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