In an ongoing effort to increase the competitiveness of Mexico’s agriculture sector, the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto is working to establish a national network of agroparks – agro-industrial clusters that concentrate various parts of the production value chain, from storage to processing, value addition activities and logistics services.
The concept, which is part of the government’s Programme for Agrofood Productivity and Competitiveness, is expected to spur dynamism in the agro-industry sector and expand the country’s export potential considerably.
In October 2013, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación, SAGARPA) announced plans for the establishment of a national network of agroparks, the Sistema Nacional de Agroparques. To this end, there are plans for the construction of new agro-parks across the country, as well as the completion of ongoing projects in Chiapas, Aguascalientes, Durango, Morelos and Guanajuato, and the consolidation and continued support of existing ones in Querétaro.
According to SAGARPA, during the post-harvest process as much as 35% of production can be lost due to the absence of an established cold chain network in the country. By effectively concentrating activities in one space – from storage to value addition and commercialisation – agroparks are expected to significantly reduce post-harvest production losses and increase integration of the production value chain. They also have the potential to facilitate access to credit for collective producers and boost exports.
Ricardo Aguilar Castillo, under-secretary of food and competitiveness at SAGARPA, told OBG,“The implementation of agroparks is conceptualised as a series of regional development centres with the capacity and infrastructure to elevate productivity, minimising costs and maximising value-addition, enabling producers to become more competitive in international markets.” According to Aguilar, these facilities can also play an important socio-economic role. “The concept of agroparks has the potential to improve earnings for small and medium-sized producers and to enable the exploitation of regional production potential in a sustainable manner,” Aguilar Castillo told OBG.
The first new agropark is slated for Tapachula, Chiapas, and will be the first project of its kind in the south-east of Mexico. Part of the current government’s Productive Development of the South Southeast Programme, authorities hope the installation of this agropark will provide an important boost to the development of the region’s agro-industry sector.
According to authorities, the Tapachula site was chosen for its strategic location, close to Puerto Chiapas and in an ideal gateway position for the central American market. The agropark will be located less than 1 km from the coast. The state already produces a number of food products, including corn, sugarcane, banana, coffee, mango and palm oil, an important portion of which is exported to the US, Canada, the EU, Asia and Latin America.
The project, which broke ground on October 29, 2014, will span 92 ha and concentrate in its first phase at least 10 agroindustry installations, including processing plants for cereals, coffee, olive oil and soya paste, as well as a processing plant and cold chain for bananas and mangos, an extraction plant for palm oil, processing plant for ethanol and a plastics producer. According to SAGARPA, the project will represent an initial investment of MXN350m ($23.6m) during the first phase and is expected to be complete in 2017.
Mexico already features a small number of established agroparks, including one in Querétaro, which has been in operation since February 2009. Beginning from an initial investment of MXN75m ($5.05m), the agropark stretches over 805 ha of land and features a technology transfer and training centre, a quality certification centre and commercialisation services.