MEXICO CITY – A halt to beer-brewing as part of the suspension of non-essential activity to deal with the coronavirus pandemic was greeted by Mexicans on Friday with a distinct lack of enthusiasm.
Mexico’s largest domestic brewer, Grupo Modelo, and the Mexican unit of Dutch giant Heineken surprised distributors, retailers and consumers with announcements that they planned to shut down their plants in the Aztec nation on Sunday.
“It’s bad news for Mexicans,” Mexico City beer wholesaler Felix Mendez said. “We are a nation of beer drinkers.”
More than 65 million Mexicans, or half the population, drink beer, and per capita beer consumption in 2018 was 68 liters (17.96 gallons), according to the Inegi statistics agency.
Mendez said he has enough beer in stock “for the next two weeks.”
In front of one of Grupo Modelo’s largest plants, located on Lago Alberto street not far from the capital’s exclusive Polanco neighborhood, three men are loading delivery trucks with cases of the brewer’s flagship brand, Corona.
Declining to give their names, the workers say that they have had no official word from the management about the suspension of beer-brewing.
The association representing Mexico’s breweries says that the industry provides some 55,000 direct jobs and more than 600,000 indirect jobs, while a report by consultants GCMA shows that the country exported nearly $4.9 billion worth of beer in 2019.
The news drew a rapid response on social media, where messages denouncing the move circulated with the hash tag #MexicoSinCerveza (MexicoWithoutBeer).
“Spain has not closed its tobacco shops, we should not close the beer wholesalers,” one person said on Twitter, while someone else offered to “Exchange rolls of (toilet) paper for beers,” alluding to the widespread panic buying of bathroom tissue.
The Mexican government declared a health emergency on Monday, entailing a suspension of non-essential activity until the end of April.
The decree explicitly identities production and distribution of “food and non-alcoholic beverages” as essential services, but makes no mention of alcoholic drinks.