MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican tequila makers have sought to dispel concerns that their exports to the United States will dry up, after two large brewers in the country suspended production to comply with government rules put in place due to the new coronavirus.
“Neither in the United States nor in Canada are there restrictions on manufacturing and selling alcoholic beverages,” the president of the Mexican tequila chamber, Rodolfo Gonzalez, said in an interview.
This week, Heineken and Grupo Modelo both said they would halt production in Mexico after the government declared a health emergency and ordered suspension of non-essential economic activity.
It caused a storm on social media and large lines in some local supermarkets as Mexicans sought to stock up on beer.
Mexican tequila makers, however, interpret the newly imposed rules differently.
Gonzalez said the sector was still expecting growth rates of between 4% and 5% for this year - even as the new coronavirus is denting sales to bars, restaurants and hotels worldwide.
The United States and Canada are the largest export markets for the emblematic Mexican alcoholic beverage, with the chamber reporting about $2 billion in sales revenues across 118 countries every year.
Gonzalez said the labor-intensive harvest of the prized agave plant would continue because agricultural production is considered an essential economic activity, even if the production of alcoholic beverages is not.
Gonzalez said stopping crop production would have severe consequences for tequila makers.
“We have to finish planting all the agave for the 2020 cycle by next month,” Gonzalez added. “If we were to suspend our activities it would cause irreversible damage.”
Reporting by Adriana Barrera; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by David Gregorio