The Agro-Industrial Sugarcane System in Mexico: Current Status, Challenges and Opportunities

  •  Héctor Emmanuel Sentíes-Herrera    
  •  Fernando Carlos Gómez-Merino    
  •  Apolonio Valdez-Balero    
  •  Hilda Victoria Silva-Rojas    
  •  Libia Iris Trejo-Téllez    


Sugarcane cultivation in Mexico occurs under a wide range of socioeconomic, environmental and agricultural conditions, with the last three harvests (2010/2011, 2011/2012 and 2012/2013) providing yields ranging from 36-125 t ha-1 (variation > 347%), with an average yield of 70.2 t ha-1, which is below the world average of 80 t ha-1. The total area allocated to sugarcane production in Mexico is close to 800 thousand hectares, and could rise to nearly 5 million hectares given adequate conditions for its cultivation. This activity generates approximately 1 million direct jobs, 2.2 million indirect jobs, and more than 2.5 billion dollars (0.4% of GDP) per year. Climate change and the rapid market penetration of high fructose corn syrup are among the greatest threats to this agribusiness, including severe disintegration of production processes in the field, industry, commerce, and consumption of cane sugar. Technology lags, low investment, high processing costs and shortcomings in production sales are issues the industry must address by leveraging their resources and coordinating processing links to be more efficient and competitive. Political influence has imposed a suboptimal policy framework to achieve the projected potential. To overcome current lags in the field and refineries within the country, significant innovations across the value-chain are underway, including a robust breeding program, digitalization of sugarcane fields and novel investments in research and development. The sugarcane value-chain has great potential for Mexico, and exploiting this potential is possible if technological, organizational and commercial management innovations currently in progress in fields and factories are applied.

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