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TheStreet Open House

Bolling: Playing the Mexican Peso

In traditional tortilla-making, corn or maize is cured in lime-infused water. The lime juice releases the skin of the corn from the kernel and also liberates the vitamin niacin and the amino acid tryptophan.

The cured kernels are then ground and rolled or pressed into thin cakes and cooked at a high temperature. The resulting tortilla emerges as a low-fat, low-sodium food, packing calcium, potassium and fiber.

Quietly, the corn tortilla has surpassed bagels and muffins to become the No. 2 packaged bread product here in America, second only to sliced bread. Tortillas and their byproduct tortilla chips and taco shells have quickly become a $6 billion per year industry here in the U.S.

One of the little reported byproducts from the skyrocketing grain prices was the massive weight they inflicted on the Mexican and Central American economies. In case you didn't know, corn is the mainstay of the Mexican diet. Corn tortillas are the staple of the food chain in Mexico. Corn and maize are used in various forms of tortilla production. What bread is to the American consumer, corn is to Mexican and Central American consumers.

With the recent dramatic drop in corn and soybean prices, the obvious winner here is the Mexican economy. At one point last year, I was trying to rally the TV honchos to do a story on the effects of skyrocketing corn prices on the Mexican and Latin American consumers. It would have been really interesting and informative.

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