We were blindsided by fresh ban, says alcohol industry


South Africa's alcohol industry has said it was blindsided by government's immediate reinstatement of the ban on alcohol, warning of a dire economic impact due to likely job losses in the industry.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday night that the ban on the sale of alcohol would be reinstated on Monday. Alcohol sales were prohibited as part of the country’s lockdown in March and had been partially reinstated last month.

In a joint statement, the National Liquor Traders Council, South African Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba) , the Beer Association of South Africa, Vinpro, and the Liquor Traders Association of South Africa, said they were shocked and disappointed.

"The industry was given no warning about the ban, nor an opportunity to consult with the National Coronavirus Command Centre (NCCC) before a decision was made and no consideration was given to the immediate logistical difficulties it poses for both suppliers, distributors and retailers alike," the industry bodies said.

During an address to the nation on Sunday night, Ramaphosa said a surge in emergency hospital admissions had led to the reinstatement of the ban, as South Africa's Covid-19 cases fast approach the 300 000 mark. The country is in the top 10 globally in terms of case numbers.

But in their statement, the liquor industry representatives said smaller retailers, wineries and taverners would be hardest hit.

"The liquor industry has a wide and deep value chain employing almost one million people across the country. The Government’s decision has serious economic consequences, placing hundreds of thousands of livelihoods at risk," said Salba.

They added that restricting legal alcohol sales will lead to the growth of illicit alcohol trade.

The controversial tobacco ban, which has been in place since the start of lockdown, has similarly sparked fierce debate over a loss of tax revenue and the creation of demand for illicit trade.

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