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President’s reforestation plan aims to restore cacao and coffee production

Government funds and army personnel will boost farmers

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Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced a reforestation program across southern Mexico. Photo: Courtesy

Fruit and timber trees will be planted on nearly 1.5 million acres in Mexico’s south.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s ambitious forestry program, announced Friday, also includes cacao and coffee crops, starting in Veracruz.

If successful, the plan will reverse Mexico’s position as a net importer of cacao, the basis of chocolate. Other countries far outstrip Mexico’s cacao production, despite the fact that Mexicans were among the earliest to grow the crop.

The government program will pay farmers a monthly wage of about 5,000 pesos to care for plots averaging about 6 acres/2.5 hectares. About 4,000 new jobs are expected to be generated by the program.

Lopez Obrador returned to his roots in Tabasco, where he began his public-service career in the 1970s helping obtain land for indigenous Chontal communities.

“This is where we started the struggle, visiting towns and hamlets many years ago,” Lopez Obrador said. “But now you see the fight was not in vain, with the suffering of many we decided to create real change.”

The program, “Planting Life,” will focus first on planting mahogany, cedar and coffee plants, and will expand to coffee bushes and fruit trees.

The program also hopes to help Mexico’s beleaguered coffee growers, who have been hit by plant disease and a lack of government support.

As with many of Lopez Obrador’s projects, the army will play a role, running the tree nurseries. Technicians and interns will also aid farmers.

While some countries are having success growing high-value, gourmet varieties of coffee and chocolate, Mexican planters fear the mass planting of low-grade cocoa varieties and robusta coffee shrubs — used for instant coffee — will put the country in the low-value mass market of commodity production.

Sources: Associated Press, El Financiero

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