The soaring prices of U.S ethanol corn has made Mexican farmers to set their fields ablaze which were planted with blue agave, a cactus-like plant used to make tequila, and replant it with corn.
Farmers have abandoned agave and accepted corn as corn’s price have rocketed in line with massive growth in U.S. demand for ethanol after President George W. Bush outlined targets last year to utilize the corn-based fuel as a gasoline alternative.
This change over from agave to corn will aid in scarcity of agave in coming years as this year farmers are expected to sow some 25-35 percent less agave. Agave, also known as Agave tequilana azul, has large and spiky leaves and survives in high, arid land taking eight years to mature. To remove the plant farmers have to cut their stem and generally put the fields on fire to remove roots.
Ismael Vicente Ramirez the head of agriculture at Mexico’s Tequila Regulatory Council said:
Those growers are going after what pays best now.
Tequila was first produced in the 16 century and is had in shots and cocktails all over the world. It got its name after a town in the western Mexican state of Jalisco. Tequila’s production from blue agave, soared in recent years as farmers cashed in on record prices brought about by a shortage of the plant at the start of the decade.
The Agriculture Ministry official Arnulfo del Toro said:
The problem that we are going to see, perhaps by mid-2008, is that a lot of agave is sick. That will have to be taken out and production is going to drop a lot.