The worldwide growth in demand for tequila coupled with production problems has put pressure on prices. Global sales of the Mexican spirit have gone from seven million cases in 1988 to 14m in 1999, and most of the growth occurred after 1994. In the UK sales have increased from 30,000 cases to 120,000 in the last 10 years. At the same time the agave plant from which the spirit is made has been hit by attacks from a fungus and a bacteria which have damaged 10% of the crop. In addition Mexican farmers switched out of its production at the same time as Mexican consumers began to drink more of it. In consequence prices of the raw material have gone up 800%. Action by the main distributors has limited its impact. UDV, which distributes the market leader Cuervo in the UK has put through an 11% price increase to the trade this month. This has put about 50p a bottle on the retail price. International brand director Chris Nadin said: "The cost increase to us has been higher but we have held back our margins. There will be shortages for two or three years. The tequila industry is protecting its current markets and not seeking new ones and this means growth will slow down for a few years." He said 20 distilleries had closed because there is not enough agave to process. "Cuervo is probably better placed than most because it owns more of its own fields and has better contracts. We will not have the major shortages that other distillers will have." One of the reasons Seagram switched from Montezuma tequila to Olmeca is that it owns the latter and is confidently predicting there will be no price increases. Beverage Brands has also said the the price and supplies of its tequila based premix Ca'quila will not be affected. {{DRINKS }}