The broken greenhouses in Tlaxcala, detached of their plastic covers, abandoned and full of weeds, is a scenario one can find in every corner of Tlaxcala (Mexico). The installation of greenhouses for indoor production of chrysanthemums began as a success. It was so great that all the people who had these facilities devoted them to the production of that flower. The market collapsed and that failure was a first warning. Most of the growers are now stranded with heavy debts.
Along came Hector Ortiz and the miracle of indoor and controlled irrigation production was rediscovered, however, the end result was exactly the same.
Then came Humberto Alba Lagunas, the former secretary of economic development, who brought and sold from Spain the idea that climate-controlled production was the answer for Tlaxcala's agricultural producers.
They need to be reactivated, was the suggestion made by Ortiz's cabinet, in which Sepuede, Fomtlax and Sagarpa had the upper hand. Credit flowed, especially when Rosalia Peredo Aguilar was an official.
The former president of the State of Tlaxcala Plant Health Committee, Guadalupe Sanchez Minor, estimated that there are registered approximately one thousand units of production in the state.
The producers' intention was to export tomatoes, Saladette Cherry tomatoes, Cherry tomatoes, poblano and jalapeno chilli to the United States and Canada.
In Cardenas, where, a decade ago, people admired the crops of legumes, Antonio Moreno Hernandez' fruits won't sprout.
He currently has a debt of 320 thousand pesos and a greenhouse filled with plagued tomatoes.
This small farmer explains that the company he hired, forced by government bodies, for the construction, consulting and marketing of his products, disappeared as soon as they lifted some battered tents laminated with low quality materials.
In June 2007, he signed the documents required by the municipal government of Tlaxco, and the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Sagarpa).
He had organized 15 of his community's communal land holders and sharecroppers to get started in the business specializing in the production of cherry tomatoes in greenhouses.
The project would be possible thanks to the mix of government resources and Banorte's loan: 30% of public resources, 70% bank debt.
The bank requested both a cash collateral and a physical one: the federal government contributed 90 thousand pesos liquid warranty and Antonio mortgaged his house. The total cost of the greenhouse was 320 pesos.
However, both the government and the bank had a condition: even though the producers had better quotes, Invermaleno company, owned by José Salvador Maleno Ruiz, should be hired for the project.
As Antonio Espejel Hernandez expressed in the fraud lawsuit that he filed before the judicial authorities of Tlaxcala a year later, he didn't understand many of the clauses the night that that he signed the contract of sale and technical assistance for his house.
Following the complaint filed on December 1, 2008, the Attorney General of the State of Tlaxcala conducted a survey to greenhouse Antonio where he found a new surprise:
The experts estimated its maximum value at 150 thousand pesos, the materials were of poor quality, the construction was a fiasco.
The farmer had paid 170 thousand pesos more, his greenhouse didn't produce and his house was foreclosed.
"We were forced. I shouldn't have given in. I should've reported them. We fell into their game because we wanted to have a greenhouse," says Antonio.
"I do not know if they'll seize my house. I do not want to owe them money, but I have no way of paying."
"We were enthusiastic about the credits, we truly thought it would work" for these and other reasons, it is easy to detect the greenhouses with their covers falling, filled with weeds."
The once spirited producers hope their debt will be forgiven.
The bad news is that the bank says they have to pay, they have signed bills and property scriptures and, just like their dreams, sooner or later are going to have a very, very bitter awakening.