Business & Economy

No beer here: Mexico’s beer sector suffering during Covid-19 crisis

By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla

Mexico City, Apr 29 (efe-epa).- The closure of Mexico’s breweries ordered by the government amid the Covid-19 health crisis has resulted in beer shortages in grocery stores, which are hanging out “No beer” signs as they watch their revenues plunge.

“There’s no beer because there’s no production. They closed the plants because of the disease,” Emilio, who has managed a small foodstore in Mexico City’s populous Iztapalapa district for the past 10 years, told EFE on Wednesday.

Before the coronavirus crisis, the beer distributor who supplies Emilio’s store made three deliveries per week, but now he doesn’t come by at all. In the store at this point are only a few cans of the less popular brands.

A few blocks away, Alejandro has a warehouse from which he distributes beverages to 150 businesses in the area. He used to sell 1,000 cases of beer per week but now he’s got a “No beer” sign hanging outside.

“It’s really affecting us because what we sell the most of is beer. Since we don’t have it right now, obviously it’s hurting us. There are eight families that make their livelihoods from my business,” he said standing amid mountains of empty beer bottles.

The scarcity of beer in Mexico has been foreseeable ever since March 31 when the government failed to include the alcoholic beverage industry among the “essential” businesses that could remain open during the coronavirus crisis, which has resulted in 16,752 confirmed virus cases in Mexico and 1,569 deaths.

Although the big beer producers, like Grupo Model and Heineken, closed their plants, it was thought that there would still be enough supply to meet the country’s demand during April, but a new government decree now says that production must remain halted during May as well.

“It’s doing what was more or less obvious. The inventories in the stores are being exhausted and there’s no new production,” Cuauhtemoc Rivera, the president of the national Small Businessmen’s Alliance (ANPEC), said in a telephone interview.

Rivera warned of the economic impact this is having on small foodstores, for which beer sales represents an average of 40 percent of their revenues.

In addition, the scarcity is also being felt in the big supermarkets, which are beginning to fill their beer coolers with other products fearing that there won’t be any new beer shipments until June.

Although the beer shortage is not yet complete, the most popular brands are hard to find and businessmen are complaining that in the larger grocery stores that still have beer to sell the price has jumped by about 30 percent.

“Before, I could get a box for 380 pesos ($15.70), but right now it costs 600 ($24.70). So, not a lot of it’s getting out,” Omar, a boy who sells “micheladas” (beer with salt, lime and other flavorings) at a street stand, told EFE.

When the pandemic started, he bought 22 boxes of beer at one fell swoop anticipating a supply shortage, but he hasn’t been able to buy any more because “I’m not selling the same amount as I did before.”

Mexicans’ relationship with beer is so tight that at the beginning of the pandemic some businesses were seeing panic buying of the beverage.

In fact, some municipalities in Greater Mexico City have restricted alcohol sales on the weekends to dissuade people from having parties and breaking the prevailing quarantine.

About half of the public – 65 million Mexicans – drink beer, consuming an average of 68 liters (about 18 gallons) per year, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi)

The impact of this industry on the economy is significant. With the popular brand Corona in the lead, beer is Mexico’s most heavily exported agricultural product with sales abroad valued at $4.9 billion in 2019, exceeding sales of avocados or tequila.

In fact, Mexico is the world’s biggest beer exporter with 26.9 percent of the world market, followed by The Netherlands (13.3 percent) and Belgium (12.7 percent), according to the United Nations International Trade Center.

Before the current crisis, the Mexican government had expected 2020 exports of alcoholic beverages to bring in $15 billion, most of that total due to beer.

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