Santamarina Steta

Nopal, National Strategic Product

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The Rural, Agricultural Development and Conservation and Food Self-Sufficiency Commission endorsed the Sustainable Rural Development Law (Ley de Desarrollo Rural Sustentable (LDRS)) modification to integrate the nopal as part of the list of strategic crops in Mexico.

Basic and strategic products are those foods that are part of the diet of the prevalence of the population in general or differentiated by region, and agricultural products whose production process is related to significant segments of the rural population or national strategic objectives.

The LDRS establishes that the State must take measures to procure the supply of food and basic and strategic products to the population, promoting their access to less favored social groups and priorizing national production.

Now, the list consists of 12 products: corn, sugar cane, beans, wheat, rice, sorghum, coffee, eggs, milk, beef, pork, poultry, fish, and now nopal.

  • The nopal is one of the most relevant crops in Mexico as food for its ecological functions and medicinal and industrial applications and, of course, from the cultural and historical point of view.
  • In Mexico, more than 100 species of Opuntia (cultivated and wild) have been reported the genus to which this crop belongs (nopalitos, prickly pear, xoconostles), most of them endemic and with a wide distribution, found from sea level to the 2700 meters above sea level.
  • In 2020, more than 860 thousand tons of nopalitos were produced, mainly in Morelos and Mexico City (Milpa Alta). 55 thousand tons are exported, mainly to the US.
  • In the case of tuna and xoconostle, more than 470 thousand tons are produced, mainly in the States of Mexico, Puebla, and Zacatecas, and 17 thousand tons are exported.
  • To obtain new plant varieties, some Mexican institutions have made efforts to take advantage of the diversity of this crop and advances in the knowledge of its genetics, such as the Chapingo Autonomous University and the National Institute of Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock Research (INIFAP).
  • In 2006, the Guidelines for the execution of the examination of the distinctiveness, homogeneity, and stability of varieties of nopal, prickly pear, and xoconostles were adopted at the international level by the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), a protocol led by Mexico, which recognizes 10 shades of fruit colors, among other characteristics, for the identification of varieties, and which constitutes the basis for the registration of types in the world, as is the case of Israel (6) and the USA. (4).
  • In the case of Mexico, there are only two protected varieties, named "Mango" and "Venustiana", whose breeder is the Chapingo Autonomous University.
  • However, the traditional varieties selected by the producers themselves have been described and registered in the National Catalog of Plant Varieties. They have recorded 61 types of nopal-tuna and 30 of xoconostle, which allows them to be given certainty to avoid their illegitimate appropriation.
  • The Sustainable Rural Development Law establishes priority actions to promote production for those crops considered essential for food or because of their relevance for the rural population.

The approval by the Commission for Rural, Agricultural Development and Conservation and Food Self-Sufficiency of the Chamber of Deputies to amend Article 179 of the Sustainable Rural Development Law to incorporate nopal into the list of essential and strategic foods implies the obligation of the State to promote its production and access, which can provide special support that promotes its conservation and evolution.


Enriqueta Molina M.