Corn demand hurts tequila industry

by Dave

Here in the heart of Mexico’s tequila country, where every town has a distillery and the air smells like sweet fermenting molasses, a sign proudly marks the entrance to Miguel Ramírez’s farm: “Rancho Ramírez: Producer of Agaves.”

But behind the fence, the blue agave plants, the raw ingredient of Mexico’s famous tequila, are getting harder to spot. They are being replaced by row after row of leafy cornstalks.

That switch to abandon slow-growing agave plants to cash in on corn, beans and other food crops selling for record prices worldwide could limit the supply of tequila and drive up the cost of a shot or a margarita.

The move is part of an international trend from Idaho potato farmers to Bolivian coca growers as they cut back on their trademark crops in hopes of making big money on corn and grain.

“Corn is where the money is now,” Ramírez said, admiring his new crop. “I’m going to get out of agave completely.”