Alder Keleman, Jon Hellin and Dagoberto Flores
Discussions of maize agriculture in Mexico often treat “maize” as a uniform commodity, sold in a relatively homogeneous market, and for which there is a single, “economically rational” production strategy. Based on qualitative research on maize value chains, we suggest that this unitary notion entails significant oversimplifications. We offer a heuristic model of farm-size related “profitability crossover,” based on observations of highland maize varieties’ roles within a series of farm-cycle opportunities and constraints. We suggest that while improved maize varieties may be profitable for large-scale farms taking advantage of economies of scale, landrace cultivation may offer advantages to small- to medium-scale farmers, who utilize a diverse range of input strategies, and sell their products in specialty markets. Understanding maize agriculture as a multi-product and multi-market pursuit rather than uniform commodity production would add greater depth to policy and academic debates.
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