Trickle Down Economics: Can Fair Trade Coffee Save Mexico’s Poorest State?

January 22, 2014

chiapasFox News Latino, 01/22/2014

Standing alongside a dirt road in the steep hills outside of Ocosingo, a town in Chiapas, in southern Mexico, Diego Méndez Gómez, a skinny 13-year-old coffee farmer pointed down at the colonial town center, a bumpy 40-minute truck ride away. “I used to go to school there,” he explained. Now he helps his father tend livestock, grow vegetables, and cultivate coffee. He left school a year ago, at age 12. On the hillside above, a man walked a donkey up the incline, past a patch of corn plants and a few small wooden houses with corrugated steel roofs. It’s Manuel Gómez Guzmán, a 35-year-old butcher who works in the colonial city of San Cristobal but travels to visit his parents outside Ocosingo. “We live from coffee,” he explained. Every year Gomez’s parents grow about 450 pounds of coffee, a yield that earns them a few hundred dollars of cash income. “I come to help them harvest and then go back [to San Cristobal],” Gomez explained. Behind him, an array of light tan beans sat under the hot sun on a tarp on the dusty road. “The beans take about four days to dry out,” Gómez explained.

Chiapas, Mexico, is coffee country, supplier of premium beans to boutique coffee brands and major international companies such as Starbucks and Nestle. But Chiapas is, too, home to many of the poorest towns in Mexico, despite concentrated efforts to invest following fair trade and sustainable production guidelines.

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Op Ed: Mexico Suffered, and the United States Felt Its Pain

November 25, 2013

The New York Times, 11/24/2013

By Laura Carlsen

NAFTANafta is limping toward its 20th anniversary with a beat-up image and a bad track record. Recent polls show that the majority of the U.S. people favors “leaving” or “renegotiating” the model trade agreement.

While much has been said about its impact on U.S. job loss and eroding labor conditions, some of the most severe impacts of Nafta have been felt south of the border.

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New Article: Mexico’s Latest Poverty Stats

August 12, 2013

Mexico CityBy Chris Wilson and Gerardo Silva, 8/12/2013

In July, Mexico’s National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL) released new statistics on poverty in Mexico. They show that Mexico’s poverty rate fell slightly between 2010 and 2012, dropping 0.6 percent, from 46.1 percent to 45.5 percent. Nonetheless, during the same period the number of people living in poverty actually increased from 52.8 million to 53.3 million, since the overall population of Mexico grew from 114.5 million in 2010 to 117.3 million in 2012. The results, then, are mixed. The poverty rate declined, yet the number of poor increased. Extreme poverty, on the other hand, clearly declined. Both the number and percentage of Mexicans living in extreme poverty fell between 2010 and 2012,  from 13.0 million (11.3 percent) in 2010 to 11.5 million (9.8 percent) in 2012.

Still, a deeper look into the components of Mexico’s multidimensional poverty measurements reveals a troubling issue. Despite the overall decline in poverty shown with the multidimensional measure, poverty as measured solely by income continues to rise. That is, even as access to things like education, housing, and healthcare improve, and even as the overall economy is growing, Mexico’s poor are not seeing their incomes rise as quickly as prices. This short article will first briefly explain the various components of Mexico’s poverty measurements and will then explore some potential explanations for the contradicting trends in income‐based poverty and multidimensional poverty.

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Poverty Figures, Navy Officials murdered & Energy Reform Proposals – Weekly News Summary: August 2

August 2, 2013

Coffee by Flikr user samrevelThe Mexico Institute’s “Weekly News Summary,” released every Friday afternoon summarizes the week’s most prominent Mexico headlines published in the English-language press, as well as the most engaging opinion pieces by Mexican columnists.

What the English-language press had to say…

This week, figures on poverty rates in Mexico were at the center of a debate in the media. Recently, Mexico’s National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL) released the most updated figures on poverty for the country. The main results show that Mexico’s poverty rate fell slightly between 2010 and 2012, dropping 0.6 percent, from 46.1% to 45.5% respectively. The number of poor people changed from 58.8 million in 2010 to 53.3 million people in 2012. Figures on Extreme Poverty figures show the percentage of Mexicans living such a condition fell from 11.3 percent in 2010 to 9.8 percent in 2012, or 11.5 million people. According to Reuters, the figures presented by CONEVAL underscore the challenges President Enrique Pena Nieto faces as he tries to lift millions of people out of poverty and boost growth in Mexico, which has a huge wealth gap

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Mexico: Still a Middle Class Society? – The Expert Take

July 31, 2013

shutterstock_70763086By Luis Rubio and Luis de la Calle

While Mexico’s society is evolving fast, it surely has not become a fully transformed, democratic, wealthy Western country, but it is clearly moving in that direction. In our book,Mexico: A middle class society, Poor No More, Developed Not Yet, we argued that the country is no longer fundamentally poor. The numbers published by CONEVAL recently, together with other data previously produced by INEGI do not contradict our basic thesis. If one agrees that companies such as Cinemex, Cinepolis and Walmart are not in the business of losing money, then there is no way to explain their extraordinary pace of growth throughout the country. Mexicans are becoming better off even if not wealthy in any sense, the subtitle of our book.

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Mexico poverty rate eased to 45.5 percent: development agency

July 30, 2013

poorReuters, 7/29/2013

Mexico’s poverty rate fell slightly between 2010 and 2012, dropping 0.6 percent to 53.3 million people, although half a million more people entered the ranks of the poor, the government’s social development agency Coneval said on Monday.

The data covers the final two years of former President Felipe Calderon’s administration, in which poverty increased to 45.5 percent of the population in 2012 from 42.6 percent at the end of 2006. Coneval’s findings dent Calderon’s record and underline the challenges new President Enrique Pena Nieto faces in his vow to lift 15 million people out of poverty, bring jobs to the country’s poorest areas and unlock Mexico’s economic potential.

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Mexico’s poverty conundrum

April 11, 2013
Mexico CityFinancial Times, 4/11/13
They call them the “viene-vienes”. In cities throughout Mexico, red rags in their hands, they wave down motorists into available parking spaces and receive modest tips for their trouble in “looking after the cars”. Their name comes from their shouts of invitation to their clients: “Viene! Viene!” – “Come on! Come on!”. The “viene-viene” men occupy one segment of Mexico’s vast informal economy. And their ubiquity is a glaring reminder that – for all the praises that are being lavished on the country’s economic resurgence – poverty remains an obstacle to Mexico’s ability to unlock its full economic potential.

In Brazil, a commodity-fuelled boom helped lift some 30-40m people out of poverty over the past decade. This remarkable reduction has in turn helped create booming markets for consumer goods and drawn in global investors. But in Mexico, wage stagnation, under-employment and inflation have eroded the income level of some 31m Mexicans, according to Jose Luis de la Cruz, director of the Center for Research on the Economy and Business at the Mexico state campus of Monterrey Tech.

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The majority of poor in Mexico are children – UN report

April 4, 2013

education - school childrenUN News Centrer, 4/3/2013

More than 20 million children and adolescents in Mexico are estimated to live in poverty, and five million of them in extreme poverty, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today reported in a joint study with the Mexican Government. “The economy has grown well over the past years but this does not always mean that the poor are better off,” said the UNICEF Representative in Mexico, Isabel Crowley. “The human development indexes in some parts of Mexico are close to those of some of the world’s least developed countries.”

According to the ‘Child and Adolescent Poverty and Social Rights in Mexico’ study, produced by UNICEF and the national social policy evaluation agency CONEVAL, children are overrepresented among the poor. According to 2010 figures, 46.2 per cent of Mexico’s residents lived in poverty – a figure that rises to 53.8 per cent among children.

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Surviving with $15 pesos (Spanish)

February 22, 2013
Photo by Flickr User Global Tribe

Photo by Flickr User Global Tribe

La Jornada, 2/22/2013

Maria Martinez’s sunken eyes and wrinkled skin make her seem more than 50 years old.  In Mixtec, she explains that she does not remember when she was born;  meanwhile, the nurse revises her records  clarifies the doubt:  Maria is 35 years and the baby she carries in her arms  is her seventh child.

Like her, many families live with 10 or 15 pesos a day (one quarter of the minimum wage)with which they can only afford  pasta, beans and, if revenues improve, chicken or beef every 15 or 30 days. “A chicken costs 80 or 90 pesos, and I can’t afford it,” says Maria.

Even though 300 families receive some aid, malnutrition, remoteness, lack of education, and unemployment keep them in the geography of poverty.

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Food goes to waste despite hunger (Spanish)

February 11, 2013

Farmers market by Flikr user ianmalcmReforma, 2/11/2013

En México se destruyen alrededor de 4.2 millones de toneladas de comida al año que podrían servir para alimentar a unos 33 millones de personas.

Paradójicamente, la Cruzada Nacional contra  el Hambre, puesta en marcha el mes pasado por el Gobierno federal, tiene como meta sacar del nivel de pobreza alimentaria extrema a 7.4 millones de mexicanos en 400 municipios

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