Mexican President Felipe Calderon said on Sunday that the government would eliminate tariffs on wheat, corn and rice as part of a plan to counter rising food prices that have provoked street protests.
Calderon blamed high food costs on global factors, including rising energy prices, soaring food demand in China and India and the use of corn for ethanol production.
But some Mexicans point to the elimination of import protections under the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and several agricultural leaders said Calderon’s initiative would only hurt national producers.
Calderon, a conservative elected in 2006, also said a quota of beans would be imported tax-free and duties on powdered milk would be slashed by half. Tariffs will also end for sorghum and soy pasta.
“We will not allow the poorest families to pay the consequences of a situation created beyond our borders,” he said.
The president promised several measures to help farmers, including modernizing irrigation systems for 214,000 hectares by the end of the year. He said that would be three times faster than the current rate of 60,000 hectares per year.
Calderon said the government would abolish duties on nitrogen fertilizer and chemicals needed to manufacture fertilizer.
And he promised a preferential credit system to help about 500,000 small farmers buy fertilizer and pay after the harvest.
Mexico’s consumer prices rose 4.55 percent in the 12 months ending last month, led by the cost of tomatoes, chicken, bread, avocados, plantains and cooking oil. It was the biggest inflation increase since 2005. Last year, tortilla prices doubled, in part because of the US ethanol boom, provoking street protests.
On Sunday, farm groups accused Calderon of offering only short-term solutions that would do little to help consumers and would hurt producers.
“The government is making emergency imports, but its policy is not accompanied by a serious reflection of the failure of Mexican agriculture,” said Margarito Montes Parra, secretary-general of the General Union of Workers and Peasants.
Small farmers have long complained about dwindling government support programs such as state purchasing agencies and distribution networks.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations