Prepare for some worrying news, everyone: tequila might cost significantly more for the next few years due to the global demand for agave.
Agave is basically the lifeblood of tequila. If you’re not sure what agave is, it’s a succulent plant with pointed leaves and is harvested for its nectar. The nectar is then used as a sweetener.
With the popular demand for agave around the world, producers of the sweetener have been finding it difficult to keep up.
In an interview with Reuters, one farmer said that he is now being forced to take agave from younger plants due to the demand. The man — who requested to remain anonymous — said that he is now harvesting agave from plants as young as four years old. Fully matured plants reach their pique at seven or eight years of age.
In the same article, another grower named Marco Polo Magdaleno said that he’s been selling plants as young as four, which means that other growers have been using immature plants. It was also reported that “the 17.7 million blue agaves planted in 2011 in Mexico for use this year fall far short of the 42 million the industry needs to supply 140 registered companies.” The shortage is said to last until about 2021.
They also reported that due to the shortage, prices have jumped substantially. One kilogram of agave is now 22 pesos (1.189 US dollars) when it only used to cost 3.85 (0.208 US dollars) in 2016.
Shortages of alcohol like this are not unheard of.
The Virginian Pilot wrote a piece in 2017 discussing how certain whiskey brands have seen a significant production decline due to the huge rise of people drinking. They also reported that revenue for American whiskey, including bourbon and rye, grew 7.7 percent in 2016 up to $3.1 billion and cognac grew 15.3 percent to $1.5 billion.
In 2016 The Spirits Business reported that Beam Suntory’s Japanese whiskey might not be able to keep up with the demands for its drink for another 10 years. When the CEO of the company, Takeshi Niinami was asked about the production shortage and how the company plans to combat it, he said, “We have got to improve quality always, we should not stay within our current quality, [we should] always try to make our products better. As long as we do this, we can sustain current momentum, I am confident of it.”
Even though there have been shortages like this before, you may need to prepare yourself for the very real possibility that you’ll need to pay more money on tequila for a while.