Coronavirus
Beer is not essential: López-Gatell. Beer is not essential: López-Gatell.

Breweries may not operate: health minister overrules Agriculture Ministry

'It is a mistake and it is going to be corrected,' says López-Gatell

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How essential is beer in Mexico? That’s a topic of debate on which the government has appeared to waiver during the coronavirus crisis, with one branch of government directly contradicting the other. 

Earlier this month, when beer production failed to make the government’s list of essential services, major breweries announced they would be halting production. 

This drew protests from the National Alliance of Small Business Owners (Anpec), which claimed its members would potentially lose up to 40% of revenues should the sale of beer be halted. 

“Spending all day together for over a month will have consequences and in this environment, the consumption of beer at home works like a relaxant, a drink for use in moderation that contributes to enduring the strictest terms of this difficult test,” Anpec argued in a statement, claiming that beer production and sales generate some 500,000 jobs. 

Beer production was initially halted, but breweries such as Grupo Modelo resumed production after receiving a letter from the Ministry of Agriculture (Sader) on April 6 which appeared to allow production to begin anew. 

“For the moment, we are inviting you to continue with daily operations and production and distribution activities, taking into consideration all the measures issued by the health authorities,” states the letter signed by Sader official Santiago José Argüello Campos.

The statement from Sader, however, was in direct contrast to directives from the Ministry of Health, which was quick to respond by ordering that production once again be halted. 

“It is a mistake and it is going to be corrected. A general provision the Health Ministry has established, with precision, is that all activities, except essential ones, are suspended. And that does not include the manufacturing or marketing of beer. It is going to be amended, the Secretary of Agriculture has already taken action on the matter and it is going to be amended shortly. The beer industry does not have the authorization to re-establish operations,” the Ministry’s Hugo López-Gatell said at a press conference on Friday.

Sader appeared to backtrack on its previous statement, clarifying that the April 6 letter was “exclusively limited to facilitating the relationship between barley producers and industry representatives. It is important to make clear that this is not an authorization for the brewing industry to maintain or resume production.”

Source: Milenio (sp), Efe (en)

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