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MasAgro fosters collaboration to optimize and reduce the cost of processing maize for making tortillas in Mexico

CIMMYT scientists and researchers from the Valley of Mexico Experiment Station (CEVAMEX, Spanish acronym) of Mexico’s National Forestry, Agricultural and Livestock Research Institute (INIFAP), who are working with the International Maize Yield Consortium (IMIC), a component of the MasAgro initiative, organized the first workshop on “Methodologies for evaluating maize tortilla-making quality” during 10-11 October 2011 at CIMMYT headquarters, El Batán.

Forty representatives of the tortilla dough, tortilla flour, and snack-making industries, as well as those from Mexican universities and research institutes, met to discuss the grain quality characteristics needed to process maize for making tortillas. Workshop participants reviewed the various parameters and methodologies available to evaluate the health and quality of maize grain used to process tortilla flour, tortilla dough, and snacks.

IMIC leader Marc Rojas reported that several work teams were formed to plan complementary activities allowing MasAgro to strengthen cooperation among producers, seed companies, breeders, the processing industry, and consumers. With this objective in mind, the participants carried out a detailed analysis of the grain quality characteristics currently needed by the processing industry, in order to identify possible process-optimizing and cost-reducing actions.

Natalia Palacios, Head of CIMMYT’s Maize Nutritional Quality Laboratory, explained that the work teams agreed that seed companies, farmers, and breeders need to have access to more information about the industry’s grain quality requirements in order to reach the above mentioned objective.

Industry representatives expressed their interest in knowing more about the location, yield, and quality of the grain harvested in different regions of the country. They also decided to identify new production areas and improve grain supply channels, and even suggested promoting the revision of Mexican quality standards. At the end of the event, Alberto Morales, Cargill Operations Manager, concluded that “we need to standardize analytical, purchasing, receiving, and sales techniques, so that we all speak the same language.”

According to Mexico’s Agricultural, Food, and Fisheries Information Service (SIAP, Spanish acronym), of the 23.3 million tons of maize grain produced in Mexico in 2010, 10 million were processed for making tortillas, and 3.5 million were for the producers’ own consumption, while the tortilla flour-processing and dough-making industries processed 3.7 and 3.4 million tons, respectively. The snackmaking industry used a little over 500,000 tons of maize.