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margarita madness

The world is facing a tequila crisis

Bad news, margarita lovers: The world could be facing a years-long shortage of tequila.

Higher worldwide demand for the liquor is leading farmers to cut corners during their tequila production, Reuters reports, including harvesting plants that have yet to fully mature. The problem traces back to agave, a bluish succulent used to manufacture tequila. Ideally, agave plants are allowed to age seven or eight years before being harvested, as older agave plants are able to produce more alcohol.

But because of higher demand for tequila, farmers have been forced to harvest their agave early to meet demand. The younger plants produce less product, meaning that more agave is being harvested to produce less tequila. The spiral could take until the early 2020s to correct, Reuters reports.

Several tequila experts interviewed by Reuters said the current agave supply is less than half of what's necessary to fuel the booming tequila industry. The increased popularity of other agave byproducts — including its syrup, which is commonly used as an alternative sweetener to sugar — is only serving to aggravate the problem.

As a result, agave prices have risen very quickly: In 2016, a kilogram of the stuff cost 3.85 pesos, or about 20 cents. Now, the same amount costs roughly 22 pesos — or almost a full dollar more. This has profound implications for producers of cheap tequila, as well as small-scale distilleries working with thinner profit margins, and could even start affecting the larger tequila producers before the shortage eases up.

Farmers are trying different planting tactics to ensure more plentiful crops in the future, but since the plants take so long to mature, agave could be in short supply for a few years. Until then, perhaps it's a good idea to stick with vodka.