Mexico’s president proposes ban on beer brewing as drought intensifies


President Andrés Manuel López Obrador this week picked an uncommon trigger with which to burnish his nationalist credentials: America’s style for Mexican beer.

Mexico’s chief demanded a halt to brewing within the nation’s drought-stricken north, blasting the enterprise mannequin of creating alcoholic drinks with water drawn from dwindling aquifers to slake thirsts on the opposite facet of the US-Mexico border. 

He known as on brewers to supply their beer within the water-rich south and supplied “total support” for these doing so. “This is not to say we’ll not produce any more beer, it’s to say that beer will not be produced in the north,” López Obrador stated on Monday. 

Mexico has become one of many world’s largest beer exporters over the previous decade because of the recognition of manufacturers such as Corona, Modelo and Dos Equis. The nation exported nearly $5bn value of beer in 2019, in keeping with state statistics company INEGI, about 94 per cent of it to US.

However, northern Mexico, which is residence to a bunch of huge breweries operated by Constellation Brands, AB InBev and Heineken amongst others, is gripped by one of the crucial extreme droughts in latest reminiscence.

The National Water Commission (Conagua) stated 41 per cent of Mexico was now in drought, up from lower than 1 / 4 this time final 12 months. Gonzalo Hatch Kuri, a geography professor on the National Autonomous University of Mexico, stated: “All of the rain now during the rainy season falls in one or two days. And in the dry season it’s very tough drought conditions.” 

Around the northern industrial metropolis of Monterrey, reservoirs have evaporated and faucets run dry, forcing some residents to attend consistent with buckets for the tanker vans that ship recent provides.

“We’ve gone up to two months without water,” stated Brenda Sánchez, a trainer residing on the outskirts of the town.

Sánchez’s household cooks, washes and bathes with the water they haul again from a weekly tanker truck cease. Tempers usually flare, she stated, with residents preventing over water and blocking roads in an effort to drive the federal government into taking the issue extra critically.

Uncomfortable questions over water inequality usually floor on social media in Monterrey, with tales of profligacy going viral. This week, native authorities introduced they’d look into whether or not a neighbourhood of the town with notably lush gardens and swimming swimming pools was equipped by unlawful water connections. Wealthy suburbs such as San Pedro Garza García have additionally been spared the worst of the water shortages.

Local officers “would not dare inconvenience the industrialists who live in San Pedro,” stated Bárbara González, a political commentator within the metropolis.

Beer bottles are cleaned at Heineken’s plant in Guadalajara. Mexico exported nearly $5bn value of beer in 2019 © Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg

The beer business in Monterrey developed across the Cuauhtémoc Brewery that opened within the late 1800s. It is now owned by Heineken. Coca-Cola bottlers Femsa and Arca Continental are each based mostly in Monterrey, whereas Coca-Cola-owned Topo Chico glowing water is drawn from a mountain spring within the metropolis.

Industrial customers have largely been in a position to function with out interruptions despite water shortages, in keeping with activists. They say industries usually have their very own wells with permits from Conagua that generally date again many years. 

“Industry not being impacted makes me think the availability of underground water isn’t in crisis,” stated Antonio Hernández, a neighborhood activist.

López Obrador has questioned the priority given to business. “[Water] has to be prioritised and it has to be given to the people first, not water for companies,” he stated in June.

However, Aldo Iván Ramírez, an engineering professor at Tecnológico de Monterrey who labored on the state authorities’s latest water plan, stated business consumed lower than 5 per cent of water in Nuevo León state, of which Monterrey is the capital.

“The majority of these big industrial companies have their own wells . . . They don’t draw from the municipal network,” he stated.

The native industrial chamber Caintra stated in an announcement that business had quickly relinquishing some 25mn cubic metres of water to assist the town, whereas corporations drill and enhance wells for public use.

Despite this, Rodolfo Fernández, an architect and professor residing in Monterrey, stated faucet water solely arrived at his residence about each third day, and even then for only some hours.

Yet he by no means lacked water for mixing cement on the development websites for his initiatives. “The companies supplying us with potable water continue giving use the same service,” Fernández stated. “They have ways of getting it.” 

López Obrador has directed his ire at brewers earlier than, together with in 2020 when he put the development of a Constellation Brands plant within the border metropolis of Mexicali to a snap vote. Permission to proceed constructing a facility that was already underneath development was rejected, though simply 4.6 per cent of residents turned out to vote.

Constellation Brands denied that its brewing operations overexploited the nation’s scarce water sources. “Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the Mexican government have expressed full support for our existing brewery operating plans in Mexico,” the corporate stated in an announcement. Earlier this 12 months it introduced plans to construct a brand new brewery close to the southeastern metropolis of Veracruz.

Alan Alanis, chief equity strategist for Latin America and Mexico at Banco Santander, stated: “We believe policymakers intend to make new water permits harder to obtain, especially those for producing in the north,” though this did “not necessarily mean ceasing or even restricting current production”.

The plan was to “promote investment in other regions in Mexico, like they did with Constellation Brands in Veracruz,” he added.

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