Mexico is running dry as beer supplies dwindle during lockdown. Beer production was halted more than a month ago as health officials declared brewing a “non-essential” activity.
“Many people are desperately searching for beer,” said Raúl Funes, the head of a craft-brew association in Tijuana, just south of San Diego. “It’s like toilet paper.”
The operator of Latin America’s largest chain of convenience stores said its Oxxo stores could run out of beer in the next few days.
Refrigerators in stores across the country are now almost empty and the few bottles and cans left are sold with a huge markup.
Mexico is also the fourth-highest consumer of beer in the world, at an average of 68.7 litres (18.1 gallons) a year per capita, according to the Kirin Beer University.
According to Kantar Worldpanel, 70% of households in Mexico buy beer.
Some brewers have continued their operations. Constellation Brands – which produces Modelo, Corona and Pacifico in Mexico for US markets – is still brewing, albeit in smaller quantities.
Last week, Constellation put its brands on allocation to local distributors, which means there is a measured amount of the beer rather than the usual limitless supply.
Wall Street analyst MKM Partners said if the company “can’t increase production by mid-May, July could feature wide out-of-stocks”.
AB InBev’s Grupo Modelo – which makes Corona for the international market – and Heineken’s Mexican subsidiary Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma – which makes the Tecate and Dos Equis brands – are waiting for the government to lift restrictions to reboot their operations.
AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito said in a Q1 earnings call: “We continue to work with governments in this fast-changing environment and are doing our part in the fight against COVID-19. We look forward to resuming our operations when appropriate.
“After the Easter vacation, which in Mexico is a very strong consumption period, there’s pretty much no inventory left in the marketplace. But there’s a lot of pent-up demand in the market.”
Temperatures & tempers soar
As temperatures climb, beer drinkers continue the frustrating hunt for Mexico’s last few beers.
Hashtags such as #LaÚltimaChela (the last beer) are trending on Twitter, while users posted pictures of empty fridges.
Last weekend, Johnny, an engineer in the border city of Reynosa, visited eight stores in three neighbourhoods but came away empty-handed.
“There is absolutely nothing,” he told The Guardian. “There’s liquor, but not everybody wants that. And it’s dwindling too.”
He did find beer for sale on the black market, but the asking price was triple the normal.
In the end, Johnny crossed the border to buy a six-pack of Corona in Texas.