Mexico: First independent malting inaugurated

Maltería Mexicana Central Altiplano, the first independent malting in Mexico was inaugurated on Thursday in Oriental, Puebla, Mexico, about 200 km east of the nation’s capital Mexico City. The plant will have an initial production of 60 metric tons (mt), but will have the capacity to grow to a thousand tons per year by the end of this year, said Carlos Bencomo, general director of the malting plant.

30 million pesos (US $1.5 million) were needed as an investment to set up the company, of which 2.5 million pesos (US $125,000) were contributed by the Ministry of Agriculture and the rest was contributed by private investors, said the manager.

Bencomo also founded in 2013 microbrewery Cervecería de Colima, in El Trapiche, Mexico, on the south-western coast of Mexico. He saw the need for locally sourced malt. “The craft breweries did not have Mexican malt and they had to import it in their entirety. For this reason we have evaluated the viability of producing our own malt, which will work hand in hand with the Mexican agriculture,” explained Bencomo.

The capacity of the new malting will be enough to cover about one third of the need of Mexico’s growing craft beer industry, which is 3,500 mt. Mexico counts 630 craft breweries today, up from only 14 eight years ago. From 2015 to 2016 malt imports from small breweries increased by 7%.

"This is the beginning of importing less and less (barley) to consume more and more domestically," said Paz Austin, director of the national brewers’ association Acermex (Asociación de la Cervecera de la República Mexicana).

Currently only Grupo ModeloAB InBev and Heineken México (including Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma) operate local maltings in Mexico for their exclusive needs. Barley is Mexico’s fourth most important crop by surface; the first three being corn, wheat and edible beans.

In 2010 about 313,000 ha of barley were planted in the country of which 230,000 belonged to malting barley. About two thirds of the barley is grown in the spring-summer cycle with yields of about 2.0 mt per ha and the remainder irrigated in the fall-winter cycle with yields of about 5.8 ha. Total malting barley production was about 650,000 mt in 2010 with all of it being 6-row varieties.

Heineken México/CCM, which brews beer brands Dos Equis, Sol and Tecate, is sourcing 4.6 million bushels (100,000 mt) of malting barley from Montana under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) according to the US Grains Council.

When US president Donald Trump announced the possibility to withdraw its country from NAFTA in fall last year, Heineken said the company “will need to look elsewhere“ to source their raw material needs. Mexico and the European Union are currently renegotiating the terms of their free trade agreement, which was signed in 2000, to include tax reduced or tax free import of agricultural goods which could easily fill this gap.

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