Booze ban: Industry worried about stock safekeeping, duration

29 December 2020 - 07:48
By TimesLIVE
The SA alcohol industry has also called for a rule allowing alcohol to be transported and stored during this ban.
Image: /Joshua Resnick The SA alcohol industry has also called for a rule allowing alcohol to be transported and stored during this ban.

The SA alcohol industry is calling for a review of the renewed liquor ban as soon as possible, saying there are alternative measures to a full prohibition to tackle the spike in Covid-19 infections.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has prohibited the sale of alcohol from stores, restaurants and bars until January 15.

Regulations gazetted after the president's announcement confirmed this, stating: “The sale, dispensing, and distribution of liquor for off-site consumption: and for on-site consumption, is prohibited.”

In addition, the consumption of liquor in public places is prohibited and “the tasting and selling of liquor to the public by registered wineries, wine farms, and other similar establishments registered as micro manufacturers, is prohibited”.

The industry said the total ban on all formal sales of liquor was of grave concern.

“Limitations on alcohol sales can be imposed in a less damaging manner that alleviates the impact on the health-care system, helps to mitigate transmission while still helping to preserve livelihoods,” the organisation said.

“The alcohol industry seeks a social compact with the government, industry and civil society to continue the sector’s vital economic activity, save businesses and jobs while ensuring its workers’ safety, promote responsible trading and the sensible consumption of alcohol.”

Patricia Pillay, CEO of the Beer Association of SA (Basa), said in a separate statement that given the surge in infections, it understood the need for urgent interventions to stabilise the health-care system.

“We do not, however, agree with the blanket alcohol ban announced by the president.

“The previous two alcohol bans had a devastating impact on the beer industry, with 7,400 job losses, R14.2bn in lost sales revenue and 30% of breweries being forced to shut their doors. In addition, the government lost R7.4bn in taxes and excise duties that could have been used in the fight against Covid-19. This third ban will do untold economic damage to the beer sector and the 415,000 livelihoods it supports.

“Secondly, we are concerned that another ban will further entrench the web of illicit alcohol trade as consumers look for ways around the ban.”

Already, before Covid-19, the World Health Organisation had estimated that a quarter (24%) of all alcohol consumed in SA was sold illicitly.

“The rise in the illicit manufacture, trade and consumption of alcohol caused by prohibition poses serious health risks as health and safety standards are bypassed,” said Basa.

“Instead of a blanket ban, government needs to regulate sensibly and to ensure that those regulations are adhered to. There is much that the industry and government can do to encourage moderate, responsible consumption and to penalise those who break the rules.”

The new regulations gazetted by Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma stated that transportation of liquor is prohibited, except where “the transportation of liquor is in relation to alcohol required for industries producing hand sanitisers, disinfectants, soap or alcohol for industrial use and household cleaning products; for export purposes; from manufacturing plants to storage facilities; or being transported from any licensed premises for safekeeping.”

Directions for the transportation and storage of liquor will be further outlined by the responsible minister, said the gazette.

The industry had voiced concern about this overnight, saying: “Prohibition of distribution and transportation which was in place at lockdown level 5 caused severe operational and logistical difficulty for the industry, as products could not be moved from production site for safekeeping in warehouses.”

“These operations have no bearing on the spread of infections nor any impact on the health system.”