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Published August 06, 2012, 10:52 AM

Dry beans still snagged at border

Mexico is still enforcing a zero-soil-tolerance law on imported U.S. dry beans, which continues to make it harder for Mexican consumers to buy them, says Judd Keller, a Scottsbluff, Neb.-based bean trader with Kelly Bean Co.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Mexico is still enforcing a zero-soil-tolerance law on imported U.S. dry beans, which continues to make it harder for Mexican consumers to buy them, says Judd Keller, a Scottsbluff, Neb.-based bean trader with Kelly Bean Co.

The bigger concern is that high prices appear to be cutting into Mexican consumption of dry beans, Keller says. The company has a number of locations across the country, including in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Earlier this summer, Keller and others involved in the export of U.S. dry beans told Agweek that Mexico had stepped up enforcement of a law that allowed its officials to stop, at the border, imported dry beans on which any soil or trace of soil was found. Mexico then allowed the dry beans into the country for recleaning, the cost of which added slightly to their price.

Nothing has changed since the Agweek article appeared, Keller says.

Even without the additional cost of recleaning, U.S. dry beans have become more expensive. That reflects the high price of dry beans and crops in general, he says.

Keller estimates that Mexican consumers, some of whom are poor, are paying roughly 50 percent more for dry beans than they were a year ago. Given that, and based on some of his company’s internal figures, it appears that Mexican consumption of dry beans is declining, he says.

In the past, Mexico accounted for about one-third of U.S. dry bean exports, with the U.S. supplying about 10 percent of all dry beans consumed annually in Mexico, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. Both North Dakota and Minnesota are major producers of pinto and black beans, which are a staple in the diets of many Mexicans.

In July, Mexico elected a new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, who has stressed he wants closer ties with the U.S. that would include an upgrade of the North American Free Trade Act, according to published reports. It’s unclear if his election will have any effect on enforcement of the zero-soil-tolerance law.

It’s also unclear if the no-dirt law is being enforced at every port of entry between the U.S. and Mexico.

But Mexican authorities are enforcing it at both Laredo, Texas, and Eagle Pass, Texas, through which the majority of imported U.S. dry beans pass, Keller says.

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