The Mexican government will only allow the export of packaged Tequila with certificates of origin from 1 January 2004, the director of the Tequila Regulatory Council, Ramón González, said yesterday. Producers and exporters will have until 2005 before the ban on uncertified exports is fully applied.

The move marks a major shift for the industry. In the first six months of 2003, only 27% of Tequila exports were packaged and had certificates of origin, while the remaining 73% were bulk liquid exports.

Mexico produced 61.8m litres of Tequila in the first half of this year, of which 51.3m litres were exported, according to the figures published by the regulatory council. The US accounts for some 80% of exports.

The government's decision follows a request by the regulatory council to boost the status of Tequila and provide quality guarantees.

Certificates of origin will only be granted to tequila produced in the western states of Nayarit, Guanajuato, Michoacán and Jalisco, as well as the northern states of Tamaulipas.

Tequila will not be allowed to leave these zones unless it is properly packaged and labelled.

The government has also approved plans to produce Tequila with fruit flavours from 1 January 2004 onwards.