Mexico celebrates International Tequila Day with challenges
Mexico's most emblematic drink celebrates International Tequila Day on July 24, 2020, with challenges beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, such as declining domestic consumption and increasing exports that risk agave sustainability.
Despite the crisis, tequila production in Mexico was 128 million liters in the first half of the year, 4% more than the same period in 2019, with an increase of 3.6% in exports.
COVID-19's health emergency seems not to have affected this agro-industry, as it has not stopped tequila production in Mexico. If the trend continues, by December 2020 another record of tequila production and exports will be broken.
The International Day of Tequila is celebrated this July 24th to commemorate that UNESCO declared as world heritage the old industrial facilities of Tequila, the town of Jalisco, where the drink originates. It also named as a heritage the landscapes of the agave, the plant from which the drink is extracted.
The blue agave tequilana weber variety is the only official plant from which the sixteenth-century mestizo drink comes from, which resulted from the syncretism of the indigenous and Spanish culture.
The agave-tequila chain is the first denomination of origin in Mexico and tequila is a symbol of the country for the world, it has great economic importance because 70,000 families live from it.
Tequila production in Mexico has been growing at an average of between 5 and 7% per year for the past 15 years, with a record 330 million liters in 2019, according to the Agave Council of Jalisco. But almost 80% is destined for the United States.
In Mexico, nearly 90% of the population "does not know much about tequila" despite it being the nation's iconic drink. Knowledge of tequila, how it's produced, and everything else from start to finish is more widespread in the United States.
Consumption in Mexico is declining, as shown by a government fact sheet that shows that 52% of Mexicans prefer beer and 26% prefer tequila. Given this panorama, producers are creating mixed tequilas in which they accentuate other flavors to attract the consumer.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the alcoholic beverage industry was paralyzed from March 30 to May 31 by the declaration of a health emergency. Although some large brands continued to export, smaller producers reduced their sales by up to 50%.
In addition to the fact that the pandemic is occurring right at the time of planting and distillation, over-demand from abroad has led to a shortage of agave. Producing a liter of tequila requires five to seven kilos of this plant, which takes about seven years to grow. As a result, the kilo of agave has risen to 32 pesos (just over US$1.4).