The rising price of corn is raising a political uproar in Baja as tortilla prices skyrocket. A projected diminution in the corn harvest due to frost blight in Baja and other corn-growing regions has led to market manipulations from both free-marketeers and the Mexican government.
A trainload of 25 toneladas of corn recently arrived in Baja from the state of Querétaro, the government’s first shipment of a promised 4000 tons to offset the staggering cost of tortillas to the average Mexican household.
The price of corn has more than doubled since January, rising from the equivalent of about $350 a ton to $680 a ton (as of March 7). According to Baja California agricultural secretary Antonio Rodríguez Hernández, the rise in price is due to speculators in the commodities markets anticipating an impending shortage, since the frost-bitten cornfields are not due to be harvested until June.
Tortilla manufacturers have been buying corn at the higher prices and are passing along the increase to their customers, arousing a political uproar from consumers that has led to governmental efforts to beat down the markets by flooding them, at least temporarily, with surplus corn reserves.
Baja economic development secretary Alejandro Mungaray Lagarda said that the State has no intention of trying to compete with private suppliers of corn; the State wants to support the small-time tortilla manufacturers who, when the price of corn grows, are forced out of the economic loop by the big national tortilladoras.