27 May 1998
Fires devastate Mexican agriculture

SLASH-AND-BURN farming by Mexican peasants and 14 months of drought have destroyed vast tracts forest and fertile land throughout the central American country.

Water rationing for irrigation has been imposed and acreage under cultivation is expected to fall dramatically this year.

Willy Joos, managing director of Novartis, in Mexico City, said if there was no rain in the next 10 days it would be too late to sow the staple maize and sorghum crops. He forecast a 30-40% drop in the acreage planted to basic grains.

The estimated 11,000 fires tearing across the country have been fanned by illegal loggers, cattle ranchers, sugar cane farmers and peasants clearing new land to farm.

  • Financial Times 27/05/98 page 6