Volume 44, Number 173,
April-June 2013

The Food Supply in an Open Economy: The Situation in Mexico, Felipe Torres, Yolanda Trápaga, José Gasca, Sergio Martínez, iiec-unam, Mexico, 2012.

This work is structured into five chapters and analyzes the spatial-economic configuration of the food supply in large urban centers in Mexico. It also presents the changes this system has undergone, its environmental implications and a comparison with supply systems in China, the United States and Japan. This provides us with a complete panorama of the challenges facing the distribution of the food we consume.

The first chapter, called “Food Supply and Distribution in Mexico: Economic Dynamics and Territorial Configuration,” explains why the food supply is a reflection of societal development and how it incorporates constant changes, especially in economies with open commercial borders, subject to new economic, social and cultural patterns. The modernization of the supply in Mexico is based on a system that has been dominant over the past decades, and even in recent years, has seen little alteration. Only when the economic model began to change and accompanying commercial opening occurred was the previous supply model modified, giving rise to a model determined by demand in large urban centers. Food supply configures consumption in cities, and cities in turn modify the diverse supply channels that respond to transformations in demand. These are necessarily impregnated with innovations that incorporate new inventory technologies, with constantly evolving products, logistics, packing and distribution in order to reach large consumption centers in a timely fashion. Within a dominant pattern of consumption and food supply, there co-exist different expressions of the traditional retail commerce scheme, which survive strong pressures from the modern system.

The chapter entitled “Food Supply and Commercialization in Transition” addresses the spatial perspective of the supply and commercialization of food, emphasizing that it is undergoing a transition and modernization to meet the food needs of urban centers and locations of any size. This section also compares the two spatial models of the food supply in Mexico, which are superimposed on each other in the distribution of food for retail in cities. Each of these models is synchronized with political, economic and demographic processes in our country.

A supply model where the State had strong influence on production, supply, storage, distribution and sales of food predominated until the mid-1980s. This influence was clear in the entire infrastructure that had been created to bring goods to urban and rural locations, paying special attention to coverage for the most unprotected social sectors. The main channels were stores specialized in some product, markets on wheels and tianguis, popular markets, and others, which were linked to a central wholesale center (supply center). However, this model faded when commercial openness arrived at the beginning of the 1990s. At that point a more modern model became dominant, based on success in diverse formats: super centers, supermarkets, self-service shops and convenience stores, instead of only through retail and traditional channels.

This new channel broke the traditional supply structures, configuring territories on a new scale and providing the metropolises and large cities with food production from diverse national and multinational spaces. The process would not have been successful without commercial opening, advances in transport systems, storage and distribution, the incorporation of modern sales technologies throughout the entire chain to accelerate the movement of merchandise, as well as novel ways to preserve and present food to the final consumer.

The way in which the modern supply system has been implemented, along with mergers, acquisitions and extreme competition, complements the analysis described in the above paragraphs. Details are given in chapter three, entitled, “Metropolitan Territorial Trajectories of the Food Supply Pattern in Mexico.” This section analyzes the growth of modern supply within the major metropolises and cities of the country. This growth is linked to the demographics of cities, high-density populations, urban expansion, income stability and new purchasing habits, all within the economic context. As such, the modernization of the supply system cannot be understood without its principle variables: economics and territory, as well as new demographic processes. There is broad heterogeneity within Mexican cities in the new supply pattern. However, in general terms, cities in the north of the country have consolidated this pattern more rapidly, due, among other factors, to geographic closeness with the United States and commercial and cultural links that have been established over time.

The fourth chapter, “Urban Spaces and Food Consumption Patterns: Reflections on Environmental Implications in Mexico City,” analyzes the environmental implications of the food supply system. Although it emphasizes Mexico City, this system is present in all large cities around the world, which no longer depend on their immediate geographic areas for food supply, because they are connected through national and international supply networks. This irrational system, where food travels thousands of kilometers to arrive at our tables, is clear in the discussion of the environmental and water footprint of food supply.

The work finishes with chapter five, “Contrasts Among Food Distribution Systems Around the World: United States, China and Japan,” which presents us with a panorama of how their supply systems function, the differences among countries as a function of the economic context and control – to greater or lesser extent – that each of the States exercises to address the necessary task of providing its population with the goods required for survival. The lessons of these models can be taken into account to improve the situation in Mexico.

This work is a necessary reference for academics specialized in this issue, but also for the general public concerned about the functioning of the production-storage-distribution chain and food consumption on the national level. This work is useful for anyone with an interest in understanding the food supply system and why we are more concerned about profits, sales and managing large volumes of food than food quality.

Rafael Olmos
Institute of Economic Research – unam

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PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 194 July-September 2018 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
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