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Chiles made in China.

Nothing distinguishes Mexican food from other delicacies quite like its ubiquitous chiles--but Mexico's grip on the production of dried chiles has faltered in recent years. China has grabbed a large share of international buyers and its reach is spreading, even in Mexico.

Asia has long been the world leader in the production of chiles, but the infiltration of the Mexican market is new. Jose Manuel Gochicoa, the president of the Mexican National Council of Chile Producers (CONAPROCH), insists that for use in Mexican food, national varieties are superior to the "Chinese counterfeits--they are similar, but they are not the same."

It looks like the public is not so sure. Of all dried chiles on the market in Mexico today, about half of them come from China. China's current yield of 450,000 hectares of chiles produced annually looms over Mexico's mere 150,000, according to CONAPROCH. Even the famed Salsa Valentina, a Mexican culinary trademark, is made from chiles hailing not only from China, but India, Peru and the U.S. as well, reports Gochicoa.

Mexican chile producers are not taking the invasion lying down. A counter-attack consisting of quality controls, regulation enforcement and heavy publicity is in the works. The goal, according to Gochicoa, is a Protected Designation of Origin, a 'denominacion de origen' that will limit the production of specific types of chiles to Mexican soil. But just as the D.O. protecting French champagne can't limit growing the right grapes to the region--only the application of the name--CONAPROCH's solution may prove more specious than it seems. Either way, Mexican chile growers face the reality of losing their market share of the most emblematic Mexican product if they don't act fast.
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Title Annotation:Imports
Author:Cooke, Julia
Publication:Business Mexico
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Dec 1, 2005
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Next Article:Still looking attractive.

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