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Addressing the future of sustainable, high-quality wheat in Mexico

September 19, 2011

Thanks to the work of Norman Borlaug and other Mexican wheat scientists, Mexico became self-sufficient in wheat production in the early 1960s. However, since the 1980s, Mexico has begun to import wheat once again, and in 2008 the level of imported wheat was almost equal to the amount produced domestically (3.2M tons and 4M tons, respectively). Mexico is now heavily dependent on the importation of bread wheat; a concern in the current climate of rising wheat prices in the international markets. In the coming years, climate change will create challenges for wheat production, whilst demand is increasing. Breeders will have to address such issues as how to increase wheat production in Mexico; what wheat quality is required by the industry now and in future years? What qualities are needed in which regions?

To address these topics, CIMMYT facilitated a workshop on ‘Strategies towards a sustainable high-quality wheat production in Mexico’ during 01-02 September, coordinated by Roberto Javier Peña and Petr Kosina. Active discussions focused on improving communication between the milling industry, farmers, and wheat breeders, alternative strategies of wheat commercialization (the problems and future of ‘agricultura por contrato’), key breeding traits for the next 10-15 years, the localization of different quality wheat varieties in particular regions of Mexico and grain storage needs in these regions, multiplication of required seed, and alternative strategies for public funding of wheat research in Mexico. Five working groups were formed which will continue the work on specific proposals to be presented to milling industry managers, the Mexican Government, wheat growers, and the national wheat chain CONATRIGO. Positive feedback was regarding the workshop itself, which was the first of its kind for many years, and also of the non-traditional plenary discussion methods (Samoan circle) used.