Mexico without Corona: Brewers suspend production during pandemic

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexicans fretted about beer supplies on Friday after Dutch brewer Heineken said it will suspend production at its seven plants in Mexico to comply with coronavirus containment measures, following a similar announcement by rival Modelo.

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Public reaction was swift. On Twitter, the phrase “MexicoSinCerveza,” or Mexico without beer, was trending on Friday.

Heineken Mexico, which employs 16,000 workers, said its decision was a response to the government’s decision to halt non-essential economic activity to contain the new coronavirus.

Grupo Modelo GPMCF.PK, producer of the Corona, Modelo and Pacifico brands, on Thursday announced similar measures.

U.S. supplies of Corona and Pacifico appeared safe. U.S. brewer Constellation Brands STZ.N, which makes Modelo's brands for the American market, said on an earnings call that its Mexican plants continued operating, though they were respecting local restrictions.

Heineken Mexico, a unit of Heinken NV HEIN.AS, said its distribution operations will conclude on Sunday, "in full alignment with the recommendations indicated by our authorities."

On the production side, the company will begin reducing operations “to a minimum ... with the sole purpose of avoiding irreversible effects that could make it impossible to reactivate our economic activity.”

So far, Mexico has registered 1,510 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and 50 deaths.

Modelo’s decision relates to wider government efforts to contain the epidemic; there is no connection between Corona beer and the virus. Corona means crown in Spanish and a crown is part of the beer’s logo.

The coronavirus also gets its name from the crown-like shape.

Reporting by Raul Cortes Fernandez; Writing by Julia Love; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Leslie Adler