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Continued alcohol ban inconsistent with global trends, says liquor industry

06 May 2020 - 11:31 By Kgaugelo Masweneng
SA is one of very few countries that continue to prohibit all sales of alcohol, says a local industry association. File photo
SA is one of very few countries that continue to prohibit all sales of alcohol, says a local industry association. File photo
Image: 123rf.com /Joshua Resnick

The local liquor industry says it’s concerned that SA's ban on alcohol during the lockdown is inconsistent with the global approach.

According to the SA Liquor Brandowners' Association (Salba), SA remains one of the few countries in the world that continues to prohibit all sales of alcoholic beverages during lockdown, with more developing economies abandoning the initial prohibition approach.

Sibani Mngadi, spokesperson for Salba, said the country continues to suffer severe revenue losses and a potential long-term negative impact on the economy as a result of the lockdown.

A man from Cape Town attempted to beat the #SALockdown ban on alcohol sales by sending a drone to his friend to collect a beer. Morgan O'Kennedy used a rope with an attachment to send to his friend to collect the beer can.

“On April 4, India lifted its six-week prohibition on the sale of alcohol which was meant to prevent gatherings, allowing alcohol sales in bottle stores for off-site consumption. A day before, Thailand took the same approach, allowing the off-consumption sale of alcohol.

“Both countries have allowed e-commerce and home deliveries of alcoholic beverages as a means to limit non-essential movement of people. On-consumption bars and restaurants remain closed to maintain social distancing, which is a critical element of the prevention of the spread of coronavirus,” Mngadi said.

He said that SA, Panama and Sri Lanka are countries where all forms of alcohol sales are prohibited.

SA initially banned even the exports of its globally recognised wine and other alcoholic beverages to world markets that had no prohibition on the sale of alcohol. Exports have since been allowed under level 4 of the lockdown.

Capetonians spoke out about the ban on cigarettes announced by minister of co-operative governance & traditional affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on April 29 2020. This comes less than a week after president Cyril Ramaphosa announced that cigarettes would be back on shelves across the country when the Covid-19 lockdown level is eased to level 4 on May 1 2020.

“Other big African economies — Nigeria and Kenya — did not adopt a total ban of alcohol since the launch of their national response to the epidemic.”

Nigeria opted for closing on-consumption venues while keeping off-trade open.

Kenya explicitly listed alcohol as an essential good and allowed for off-trade consumption. Last week Kenya also announced an easing of on-consumption sales of alcohol to include sales “30 minutes before a meal, during the meal and 30 minutes after a meal at restaurants,” he said. Bars and nightclubs remain closed.

“As Salba, we call on the government to reconsider its prohibitionist approach and to align with international best practice in permitting limited and closely supervised sales of alcohol through retail channels.

“Permitting retail sales and delivery of alcohol under strict conditions would not only limit losses to the fiscus, but will also provide a vital lifeline for jobs across the entire value chain, from agriculture to the packaging and retail sectors.” Mngadi added.