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Mexico - Country Report

Manuel Ángel Gómez Cruz, Rita Schwentesius Rindermann, Laura Gómez Tovar, Javier Ortigoza Rufino and Erin Nelson

This article was orignally published in The World of Organic Agriculture. Statistics and Emerging Trends 2009.


In 1967, Chiapas’ Finca Irlanda certified its coffee production as biodynamic, thus becoming the first organic operation in Mexico to achieve official certification status. During the 1980s, other private coffee producers, including Rancho Alegre, Finca San Miguel, Finca La Granja and Finca Montagua, began to certify their production as well. One of the most recognized organic coffee producers – the cooperative UCIRI* – began the shift to organic agriculture in 1982, largely as a result of the influence that Liberation Theology had on the cooperative’s members. UCIRI achieved organic certification in 1988. In northern Mexico, organic vegetable production began in 1985, with the small-scale, low-income producers’ cooperative Productores Orgánicos del Cabo in Baja California Sur. During these early years of development, the primary actors in the Mexican organic agriculture sector were non-governmental organizations, export-oriented businesses and religious groups. The Mexican state had very little involvement in organic agriculture during this period.

*Union de Comunidades Indigenas de la Region del Istmo (Union of Indigenous Communities in the Isthmus Region), www.uciri.org

Statistical Development

Mexico: Economic importance and growth rate of organic agriculture







Annual Growth Rate

Land area (ha)







Number of producers







Jobs created







Foreign currencies (US Dollars)







Source: CIIDRI – CIESTAAM, 2008

*Includes wild collection areas; only land area with full organic status.

Export-oriented production

The majority of organic goods produced in Mexico are intended for the export market – primarily going to the United States and the European Union, but also to a lesser extent to Japan and other smaller countries. By far the most significant organic export crop is coffee, which accounts for 61 percent of Mexico’s organic land (or 239’763 hectares). In addition, 35’000 hectares are used for vegetable production, 16’000 for cacao, 10’000 for avocado, and significant amounts for agave, mango, coconut, aloe vera, corn, citrus fruits, honey and sesame, all of which are produced almost exclusively for export. In contrast, organic livestock production in Mexico is still in the early stages of development and is currently marketed exclusively within the country. In most cases, organic meat products sold within Mexico are not  differentiated in the market from conventional goods.

Although growing numbers of medium and large-scale producers have been drawn to organic production as a means of accessing the lucrative export market and thus increasing income, the Mexican organic sector continues to be dominated by small-scale farmers, many of whom are Indigenous. These producers tend to be organized in groups, some of which represent more than 12’000 members. In 2007/2008, up to 99.9 percent of organic producers were classified as small-scale. These producers have an average of 3.02 hectares, and they farm 93.9 percent of the organic land in Mexico. Between 2004-05 and 2008, the percentage of Mexico’s Indigenous organic producers grew from 58 percent to 83 percent. Today, 22 different Indigenous groups are involved in organic production. The most important Mexican states in terms of organic production are Chiapas and Oaxaca, which account for 36 percent and 24 percent of the national organic production respectively. Querétaro is responsible for 7.7 percent of the country’s organic production, followed by Guerrero, Tabasco, Michoacán, Veracruz, Sinaloa and Jalisco. Ninety percent of Mexico’s organic land is located in the aforementioned states.

Twenty-one agencies are involved in organic certification in Mexico. With the exception of Certimex, all of these agencies are based in foreign countries – 11 in the United States, four in Germany, one in Italy, one in Switzerland, one in Sweden and one in Guatemala. Certimex is the most important certifier in the country, certifying 25 percent of all organic land (77’000 hectares). Germany’s Naturland and the American Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) are also very prominent. In recent years, participatory guarantee systems (PGS), or participatory certification, has become increasingly important in the Mexican organic sector. PGS is actively promoted primarily by the Mexican Network of Organic Markets and was recognized as a viable certification option in article 24 of the country’s new law governing organic products.

Growing domestic market

In spite of the continued dominance of export-oriented production in the Mexican organic sector, over the past five years the internal market for organic goods has also shown significant growth. Today, organic products can be found in supermarkets, specialty stores, health food stores, cafés and restaurants in many of the country’s major cities, as well as in tourist zones and areas where organic production is concentrated. In addition, the Mexican Network of Organic Markets, which was founded by four local organic markets 2004, today represents 20 such markets across the country – for example in Chapingo, Oaxaca, Tlaxcala, Guadalajara, Puebla, Jalapa, Cuautla and Los Cabos. In some of these markets, the demand for organic goods currently exceeds the supply.

In recognition of the growing importance of the organic sector to Mexico’s agricultural economy, the government has begun to take steps towards increasing involvement. At the state level for example, some governments currently provide assistance to organic producers and to those trying to make the transition to organic production. At the national level, in February 2006 the Mexican government passed a law governing organic products. This law sets standards regarding the regulation and promotion of the organic sector, including the organic guarantee system for local markets. In order to help facilitate the implementation this legislation, the Ministry of Agriculture (SAGARPA) recently created a National Council of Organic Production. This council consists of more than twenty members, representing organic producers, processors, certification agencies, academics and government representatives. To date, the specific details of the law’s implementation have not been decided upon. In spite of the importance of this new law, a broad strategy or national policy designed to assist the growth of the organic sector remains lacking.