MEXICO CITY, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Mexican wheat imports registered a new record for the first half of the year, reaching $741 million, according to data from the Bank of Mexico.
Foreign wheat purchases by Mexican buyers through June rose by nearly a third compared with the same six-month period last year, surpassing the previous record from 2008 of $637 million in imports.
According to Mexico City-based agriculture market consultancy GCMA, the surge in wheat imports is due mostly to spiking corn prices.
"Wheat has been cheaper than corn since September last year until May of this year, so instead of importing sorghum and corn, the agriculture and livestock sector imported wheat," GCMA Director Juan Carlos Amaya said on Tuesday.
Corn futures at the Chicago Board of Trade have climbed dramatically over the past few months, fueled by the worst drought in half a century in the United States, the world's top corn producer.
December corn rose 1.7 percent to $8.37 per bushel in Tuesday trading, and has risen more than 60 percent since June. Meanwhile, September wheat hovered near or below $7 per bushel from January through May, although it has risen more than a third since then.
Mexican wheat imports for the first half of 2012 totaled 3.13 million tonnes, nearly double the amount imported during the same period last year, according to a GCMA report published last week.
In a television interview Tuesday, Mexican Economy Minister Bruno Ferrari warned bread makers against speculative price spikes. "We need to be careful. We've seen reports that this is happening," said Ferrari. (Reporting By David Alire Garcia and Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)