Chinese Spirit Worries Mexico

T Updated

Mexican politicians are demanding action to protect their Spirit industry from Chinese competition.

The lower house of Congress voted to urge the government to stop Chinese firms from patenting Maguey - a type of agave plant used in Mexican Spirits, including Mezcal and Destilado de Agave.

MPs are also worried that Chinese and Japanese firms could target the market in another cactus species, Nopal.

Nopal leaves are increasingly popular in the US, where there is already strong demand for tequila.

"Nopal and Maguey are Mexican plants and if we don't take the necessary measures in time, we run the risk of losing the denomination of origin", Cesar Duarte, the deputy who sponsored the move, told the Efe News Agency.

Mr. Duarte said the main Mexican farmers' union had been told that Chinese firms had begun legal moves to register the Nopal plant with the European Commission as a Chinese product.

But the Mexican Agriculture Ministry said that so far Brussels had received no requests regarding either Nopal or Maguey.

Tequila power

The Mexican tequila industry has expanded rapidly since the early 1990's.

Marketing experts have tried to change its reputation from a cheap peasant drink to a sophisticated international spirit like whiskey.

In 2005, Mexico produced a record 210 million liters of tequila - almost half of which was exported. Sales to the US alone were worth more than $400 million.

Mexican tequila producers have pushed for tequila products to have a denomination of origin system similar to the one used in the wine industry.

Mexico argues that the Maguey is a uniquely Mexican product because 150 of the 200 varieties of the plant are found in its territory.


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