Tesis doctorales de Ciencias Sociales


Enrique Espinosa Ayala

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The research was carried out in the municipality of Aculco, located in the north-western region of the State of Mexico (which surrounds Mexico City), located between 20°06’ and 20°15´ North and 99°37´ and 99°50’ West. Data gathering was carried out from February to November 2007.

The sample framework was established considering 37 cheese factories, 269 small-scale dairy farms (SDF), 62 milk collectors and an undetermined number of cheese merchants. SDF were divided into those which deliver milk directly to the cheese factories or those who sell to milk collectors, whereas cheese factories were classified as traditional, diversified and commercial (Castañeda-Martínez et al., in print).

A stratified sampling was carried out considering the classification of the cheese factories, and the sample size for SDF, cheese factories and collectors determined according Daniel (2005). Sample size was 28 SDF (10% of farms), 16 milk collectors (25% of the total) and 12 cheese factories (5 traditional, 4 diversified and 3 commercial) (32% of the total).

Questionnaires were applied that took into account productive and commercialization items. Also, the economic analysis of the immediate past year was carried out, with money values expressed as U.S. dollars (USD$).

The economic indexes were: production costs (variable and fixed costs), income (sales), gross margin (GM) (income less production cost), margin for family labour per worked day (MFWD) (GM/worked days), and income/expenditure ratio (I/E), following the methodology of Activity Budgets (Espinoza-Ortega et al., 2007).

The generation of value was calculated by cheese product (1 kg) or its equivalent in the case of milk; by taking account of the value of supplies, processes and revenues in each stage of the productive chain using the methodology of Competitiveness with Equity in Agro-alimentary Chains (Herrera, 2000).


Characteristics of the milk – cheese chain

The chain studied is short (Marsden et al., 2000), of a traditional type which links cheese factories as the main axis with SDF, milk collectors and traditional cheese merchants (Figure 1).

 Please insert Figure 1 about here.

SDF are smallholder campesino farms (Espinoza-Ortega et al., 2007), based on family labour, using their own resources on small farms with an average size of 6.5 ± 9.89 ha, where maize was cultivated (5.0 ± 7.0 ha) for self-consumption and cattle feeding, and they also grow forages such as oats and cultivated pastures. Besides home-grown forages, they use commercial concentrates to feed their small dairy herds (0.630 ± 0.340 kg concentrate/L of milk).

Average herd size was 9 ± 4 cows plus their replacements; the milk yield per cow at 305 days was 4,412 ± 1,442 L, milking is by hand, there are no cooling systems and the milk was stored in plastic buckets, usually in the shade. Quality control was performed by means just of a visual inspection by the buyer, checking general cleanliness and sometimes that no water has been added to the milk.

Milk commercialization was undertaken in two manners. The first was direct sale to cheese factories at a price of USD$0.41 ± 0.007/L. The SDF that deliver directly were located close to cheese factories. The second mode was the sale to milk collectors who paid USD$0.37 ± 0.014/ L, the SDF which sold to milk collectors were in distant zones, with difficult access, or do not own a vehicle to deliver milk directly to cheese makers.

Milk collectors were an actor who had a double role, the first and most important was the collection of milk; and the second was as a supplier of additional services, as vendors for commercial concentrates. Some collectors were also milk and/or cheese producers.

The milk collectors bought milk in different routes which included from 6 to 47 SDF, transported an average volume of 1,071 ± 585 L /d, paid an average price of USD$0.37 ± 0.01 /L, and milk was transported warm in 220-litte plastic containers, which are not appropriate for transporting milk.

Milk collectors did not have a quality program, filtering was carried out with a piece of cloth, and milk was visually inspected; and some collectors measured milk density. Milk collected was then sold to cheese factories at an average price of USD$ 0.40 ± 0.02 /L.

Cheese factories bought milk directly from SDF and through milk collectors. Upon reception, milk was once again sieved, visual quality control was performed and on occasions density measures were taken with milk gauges.

Cheese factories classified as traditional, diversified and commercial (Table 1) were differentiated, among other things, by the volume of milk they process; so that average cheese production was 122 ± 43, 134 ± 78 and 191 ± 147 kg/d, respectively. Commercial cheese factories transformed 77% of their milk volume into Oaxaca cheese (made by melting the curd and then strung in skeins), whereas the traditional and diversified factories, although still their main product, made Oaxaca cheese in a lesser proportion of their processed milk, and manufacture other varieties such as ground and “Manchego style” cheese.

 Please insert Table 1 about here

Selling prices were USD$4.52 ± 0.07 /kg for Oaxaca, and USD$4.55 ± 0.03 /kg for ground and “Manchego style” cheese, which were slightly higher than the average prices for fresh cheese in Mexico, which was USD$4.39 /kg (SIAP, 2008).

Cheese was mainly commercialized through three channels. The first was sale through their own shops located in the main town of Aculco, corresponding to the lesser proportion of commercialized cheese. Selling price was between USD$4.57 and 5.03 /kg, and the available presentations were 0.5 and 1 kg packages.

The second channel was selling to not-owned dairy shops in nearby cities (Mexico City, Toluca, Atlacomulco, and Ixtlahuaca located 110, 105, 40 and 70 km from Aculco respectively). The presentations were heavier, from 1 to 5 kg packages, the price was USD$ 4.57 /kg, and the commercialization costs were absorbed by the cheese maker.

The third channel, and the most important, was selling through intermediaries who commercialize it in Mexico City, Toluca and Atlacomulco. This channel represented 82% of the commercialized cheese. The purchase price was USD$4.57 /kg, and it was sold at USD$ 5.03 /kg in the cities, with the intermediaries covering the commercialization cost.

Economic analysis

The economic analyses show GM, MFWD, R/E, produced volume, unitary cost and sale price at SDF, milk collectors (Table 2) and cheese shops (Table 3).

 Please insert Tables 2 and 3 about here

SDF which deliver milk directly to cheese factories had slightly higher revenues than SDF which sell to milk collectors, due to a higher price paid for the milk. In these SDF the production costs were incremented without substantially affecting the unitary margin. On the other hand, SDF which delivered to milk collectors increased the production volume and decreased production costs in order to improve their incomes.

Milk collectors obtained a GM and a MFWD greater than SDF, even though they obtained an I/E of only 1.03 indicating a low profitability over capital which in economic terms would not be adequate, but the advantage they have is the payment system, as they do not expend their money in purchasing milk, since they pay for it once the cheese shops have paid them, on a weekly basis, so that their only investment is on fuel and daily expenses on their vehicle.

The most dynamic actors who obtained the best economic indicators were the commercial cheese factories, with the best economic indicators (GM and I/E) due the larger production volume and good margins due to low production costs. These cheese factories benefit from commercializing Oaxaca cheese mainly, as they obtained the best milk to cheese yield with this variety and market their product easily.

Traditional cheese factories showed a lower GM; however as they only use family labour, they obtained the highest MFWD. Diversified cheese producers obtained the lowest MFWD and the highest production cost, explained by the different types of cheese they produce that imply diverse processes and increase cost.

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