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Corona beer (Photo: Jake Bradley on Unsplash)
24 September 2020

Constellation Brands said to explore new site for half-finished brewery

Mexico | It could be done: dismantle, truck and reassemble. Constellation Brands, the number three brewer in the US, is exploring options to move its unfinished brewery from Mexicali to Baja California’s coastal zone, the website Mexico-now.com reported on 7 September 2020.

The USD 1.5 billion brewery, which has been in the works for at least five years, is nearly finished. Although it had been approved by a prior administration, it was rejected by a Mexicali consultation (a plebiscite) in March 2020 over concerns that it would cause water shortages for local residents and farmers. The vote was marked by low voter turnout.

Allegedly, Constellation is now planning to build its own desalination plant next to the brewery on the Baja, the peninsula that runs along the Pacific coast. No precise location has been mentioned. The largest city on the Baja, Tijuana, would suggest itself. It lies 180 km to the west of Mexicali and just south of San Diego and the US border. The US state of California is Constellation’s biggest US market and the western US a fast-growing region.

Critics rally against new proposal

However, Constellation’s Mexican critics are not happy with the proposal. They say that the coastal cities have the greatest water shortages as the aquifers in the region are already overused. Moreover, they are suspicious that Constellation will link the proposal to build a desalination plant to a permit to use precious groundwater as well.

It was pointed out that both the beer would be exported to the US, while the contamination of the desalination process would remain in Baja California. In fact, desalination remains an expensive option and one that creates environmental issues as well.

Mexico’s president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (or AMLO for short) stressed in August that the federal government would not issue any permits to build the plant anywhere in Baja California, and strongly encouraged the brewer to explore options in Mexico’s southeastern region. “Seventy percent of the country’s water is in the southeast,” the president was quoted as saying. He specifically mentioned Chiapas, Oaxaca and Tabasco.

AMLO has other plans

The Mexicali brewery would have had a capacity of 10 million hl beer annually. It would have produced Corona and other Modelo beers exclusively for export to the US, making the border region more viable for transportation than Mexico’s southern states. The federal state of Chiapas, for example, lies next to the border with Guatemala and 3,700 km away from San Diego.

Officials have offered few details where Constellation hopes to relocate to. But a desalination plant in Rosarito, 30 km south of Tijuana, has long been among the governor’s top priorities for Baja California.

In order to put pressure on Constellation to accept his suggestions of a southern location for the brewery, AMLO, on 12 August, reportedly accused Constellation of trying to open its Mexicali brewery illegally.