This photograph dated July 14, 2023 shows the director of sustainability projects of the Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT), Carlos López, showing a series of ARA certificate labels in the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco (Mexico). EFE/ Francisco Guasco

Mexican tequila industry certifies agaves to avoid environmental impact

Guadalajara, Mexico, July 24 (EFE).- Given the growing overproduction of the agave plant and the environmental problems this has generated in five states in Mexico, the tequila industry generated a certification to ensure the drink is produced without deforesting or modifying nature.

Tequila masters work in a distillery in the town of Tequila, in the town of Tequila, Jalisco (Mexico). EFE/ Francisco Guasco

On the eve of International Tequila Day, Carlos Lopez, the Tequila Regulatory Council head of sustainability, said in an interview with EFE that since 2021 they created the Environmentally Responsible Agave (ARA) certificate, a voluntary scheme to avoid deforestation due to blue agave crops.

Photograph of agave fields in the town of Tequila, Jalisco (Mexico). EFE/ Francisco Guasco

“We certify tequila, but worry that an agave producer could cause damage to the environment or get into a legal problem by making a change in land use without any authorization, we created this ARA tool,” he said.

The body is committed to the self-regulation of the industry and the good will of the producing companies to avoid invading natural areas and reject the purchase of agave grown in these circumstances, by farmers.

“There is a federal law that has to do with deforestation, in addition to this, the agave-tequila production chain adopted a self-regulation scheme, there is a tool to see how they can do it, as an agribusiness I am not going to consume agave that has caused deforestation,” he said.

Scientific research and environmental organizations said the overproduction of agave favors the invasion of key ecosystems for the environment and the mitigation of climate change, as well as that farmers stop producing basic grains such as corn.

According to the council, in the five states that hold the designation of origin for tequila there are 413,870 hectares of agave crops distributed in 173 municipalities.

In 2017, there were 29 million plants available and five years later, in 2022, the number increased to 375 million plants.

Lopez said that in recent years agave producers have invaded forest areas or ecosystems that offer environmental benefits hand in hand with the increase in tequila production, which in 30 years grew 526 percent.

“In agriculture in Mexico, they think that they can clean up areas because there are no pine trees or large trees, but that is also deforestation, with the ignorance of some producers, with a lack of information to validate, it was causing soil changes to be made without authorization from the competent authority,” he said.

Lopez said the council worked with the environmental secretariats of Guanajuato and Jalisco, which have 88 percent of the blue agave available, so companies have access to compatibility maps and know if their crops invade agricultural land or forest areas.

So far, 800,000 liters of tequila from six companies have been produced with ARA certification.

The goal is that by 2027 all tequila is made with agaves that have not caused deforestation, although the council will not make this process mandatory. EFE