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Shoppers In Mexico Are Panic-Buying Beer During The Coronavirus Crisis

A man stores beer in a shop in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state on Friday.
Julio Cesar Aguilar
AFP via Getty Images
A man stores beer in a shop in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state on Friday.

Mexican authorities ordered the shutdown of all nonessential businesses and industries for the entire month of April in hopes of stemming the spread of the coronavirus. To the shock of many, added to the list of nonessential industries was all alcoholic beverage production. Within days a whole new set of panic buying was taking place. Forget the run on toilet paper, beer hoarding was on in cities and towns throughout Mexico.

In the northern border state of Nuevo Leon, Gov. Jaime Rodríguez Calderón went a step further and recommended banning alcohol sales as well. He worried that with families holed up in their homes and under stress, alcohol consumption could contribute to spikes in domestic violence. To the south in Tabasco state, the governor outright banned sales. Mayors in other cities limited hours of alcohol purchases.

Soon videos of shoppers in long checkout lines with carts full of Mexico's beloved beers were making the rounds of social media.

As well as a whole new set of memes with the hashtag #ConLasChelasNo, roughly translated, #Don'tMessWithMyBeer.

Mexico has 1,688 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 60 deaths due to the virus. Among the nonessential businesses ordered shut down on Tuesday were restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, all big purchasers of Mexico's beer and spirits industry.

That reportedly got Mexico's three major beer companies – Constellation Brands, Anheuser-Bush InBev, and Heineken – lobbying Mexico's president to designate their production as essential, as he has for other agribusinesses. Not to be left out, the governor of Jalisco state, home to the city of Tequila where Mexico's most favorite spirit is cultivated, is pushing for an exemption.

Grupo Modelo announced that beginning this Sunday, it would comply with the health emergency decree and suspend its beer production. The company, which sells the Corona label nationally, did stress that it is important to the agricultural industry and that tens of thousands of families depend on its sales.

On a quarterly earnings call Friday, Constellation Brands CEO Bill Newlands didn't say when production of its beers, which include the Corona label for export as well as Pacifico and Victoria brands, might stop, said Benj Steinman, publisher and editor of Beer Marketer's Insights. "It was not clear on the call, it was a little strange and difficult to discern what their plan is," he said.

Constellation Brands is assuring American beer lovers not to worry. The company says it has a 70-day supply of beer already in U.S. warehouses. That's enough to get through the two upcoming big sales days in the U.S. for Mexican beer .... Memorial Day and of course Cinco de Mayo.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Carrie Kahn
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.