This article examines the case of the Mexican ‘tortilla crisis’ of 2007. Drawing on reviews of literature and the media, key-informant interviews, and secondary databases, the authors explore the response of the Mexican maize–tortilla chain to a price shock. Price increases should theoretically be passed on to the consumer as a progressively less significant percentage of the overall price of value-added food products. However, in Mexico, price increases were magnified along the maize–tortilla production chain. This was due largely to asymmetries among segments of the chain, which conditioned the responses of industrial-scale corporations and small-scale family businesses. This case study suggests that, in order to understand the impacts of price-shocks on poor consumers, more detailed, country-level analyses of market chains and price-transmission structures are needed.
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