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Mexico acts on tortilla prices

January 19, 2007|From the Associated Press

MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Felipe Calderon signed an accord with businesses Thursday to curb soaring tortilla prices and protect Mexico's poor from speculative sellers and a surge in the cost of corn driven by the U.S. ethanol industry.

The corn tortilla is a staple of the Mexican diet and is especially crucial for the poor.

The accord limits tortilla prices to 8.50 pesos (78 cents) per kilogram and threatens to use existing laws to achieve prison sentences of as much as 10 years for company executives found to be hoarding corn. Some stores have been selling tortillas for as much as 10 pesos a kilogram.

It also raises quotas for duty-free corn imports to 826,733 tons, most of which will come from the United States.

The measure is to be reviewed for possible modifications in April.

"The unjustifiable price rise of this product threatens the economy of millions of families," Calderon said.

"We won't tolerate speculators or monopolists," he said. "We will apply the law with firmness and punish those who take advantage of people's need."

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