Is a Tequila Shortage Coming Next?

A possible agave shortage has people worried that tequila and mezcal may soon be in short supply.

If you’ve recently become a tequila aficionado, you’re not alone. The tequila market has expanded dramatically over the past two decades as sipping high-end brands, including those owned or founded by major celebrities—think Casa Noble by Carlos Santana, Casamigos founded by George Clooney and Rande Gerber (and sold to Diageos in 2018), and Tequila 818 by Kendall Jenner—has become more and more popular. And, of course, margaritas and other cocktails made with tequila have never fallen out of favor. All this means that U.S. sales of agave-based tequila and mezcal climbed to $6 billion in 2022, according to a report from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, and tequila and mezcal are both the second-biggest spirits category in the country and the second-fastest-growing one.

Despite this growth, all is not going down smoothly in the world of tequila drinks, with possible shortages looming—and lemon and salt may be of no help at all. The culprit for this possible margarita mayhem? Climate change.

A field of Blue Agave in Jalisco Mexico
Matt Mawson / Getty Images

Agave is a succulent whose piña (the heart of the plant) is used to make tequila and mezcal and grows in six states in Mexico, with the largest producer being Jalisco. Extreme weather changes, including high temperatures, drought, and sudden deluges of rain, damage delicate agave plants. The past few years of unusual dryness have hurt the agave crops grown to produce tequila, and experts say there’s no indication of this weather pattern changing anytime soon.

The warming temperatures have also become a growing concern for the Mexican long-nosed bat, a key pollinator species for the agave plant. Pollinators such as butterflies, bats, and bees around the world are experiencing enormous population declines, with potentially catastrophic implications for the plants they pollinate.

“You wouldn’t have tequila if you had no bats, because that’s the only thing that pollinates the agave plant that makes tequila,” Ron Magill, the communications director and a wildlife expert at Zoo Miami, told CNN.

Agave growers and tequila producers are concerned that the combination of weather changes, pollinator disruption, and the increasing desirability of premium tequila brands may make the rapid growth of the tequila market unsustainable—and even lead to tequila shortages, if growing demand doesn’t have the supply to meet it.

Various growers and tequila producers are exploring ways to meet the growing demand, including experimenting with growing agave in other regions, but only time will tell if you need to find an alternative to your go-to tequila cocktail.

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  1. “Distilled Spirits Council Annual Economic Briefing: Reaching Historic Milestone, U.S. Spirits Revenues Take Share Lead of Total U.S. Beverage Alcohol Market in 2022.” Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

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