By Frank Jack Daniel
MEXICO CITY, May 29 (Reuters) - Mexican farmers are setting ablaze fields of blue agave, the cactus-like plant used to make the fiery spirit tequila, and resowing the land with corn as soaring U.S. ethanol demand pushes up prices.
The switch to corn will contribute to an expected scarcity of agave in coming years, with officials predicting that farmers will plant between 25 percent and 35 percent less agave this year to turn the land over to corn.
"Those growers are going after what pays best now," said Ismael Vicente Ramirez, head of agriculture at Mexico's Tequila Regulatory Council.
The large, spiky-leaved agave thrives on high, arid land and can take eight years to reach maturity. To remove the plants, growers cut them at their stems and often burn the fields to remove the roots.
Tequila, drunk in shots and cocktails around the world, is named after a town in the western Mexican state of Jalisco.
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