Stop putting agave syrup in your coffee. We officially have problems bigger than your bitter latte: There’s a tequila shortage on the horizon.
Agave, the miraculous plant responsible for such things as tequila, mezcal, and agave syrup, is in danger. Increased demand for tequila and rising prices for the spirit-producing succulent have been wreaking havoc on farmers and tequila producers in Jalisco, Mexico, the western state responsible for a majority of the world’s tequila production.
The issue here is not a blight or drought, but the haunting reality that we are simply drinking too much tequila for farmers, and agave plants themselves, to keep up. Prices for agave tequilana, the base ingredient of tequila, have skyrocketed in the past two years, increasing six-fold, Reuters reported. Agave prices have risen to 22 pesos ($1.18) per kilo, up from 3.85 pesos in 2016.
To meet demand, farmers are forced to harvest agave plants younger and younger, which in turn means more plants are being used to make less tequila.
It’s a problem that could take years to fix, experts say, as agave plants typically take seven to eight years to mature to their ideal tequila-making age. In addition, the number of farms at which tequila can be produced is limited due to origin rules.
“[Tequila makers] are using four-year-old plants because there aren’t any others,” Marco Polo Magdaleno, a grower in Guanajuato, one of the Mexican states allowed to produce tequila, told Reuters. “I can guarantee it because I have sold them.”
The shortage is expected to worsen in 2018, and to continue into 2021.
“At more than 20 pesos per kilo, it’s impossible to compete with other spirits like vodka and whisky,” Salvador Rosales, manager of Tequila Cascahuin, a small producer in El Arenal, Jalisco, said in an interview. “If we continue like this, a lot of companies will disappear.”