SA’s beer association says third alcohol ban will cost jobs and increase illicit sales

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Beer Association of South Africa (Basa) acknowledges the severity of the Covid-19 second wave and, with it, the immense pressure on the healthcare system. Given the surge in infections, Basa said it understands the need for urgent interventions to stabilise the healthcare system.

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In a statement issued on Monday night, a few moments after the president’s address, Basa said they do not, however, agree with the blanket alcohol ban announced by the president.

“Firstly, the previous two alcohol bans had a devastating impact on the beer industry, with 7 400 job losses, R14.2 billion in lost sales revenue and 30% of breweries being forced to shut their doors. In addition, the government lost R7.4 billion 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 South Africa 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. Methanol poisoning can cause blindness, liver damage and even death. An increase in illicit trade also means that the taxes and duties that usually accrue from the legitimate sale of alcohol are lost to the fiscus,” said Basa in their statement.

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Instead of a blanket ban, Basa said the 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.

“For our part, to ensure businesses are Covid-19 compliant, BASA members have provided training and guidelines to outlets across the country, including the roll-out of 50 000 educational posters to establishments. We have adopted a zero-tolerance approach to non-compliant businesses by cutting off supply to any outlets and establishments that have been found guilty of flouting Covid-19 directives.”

To reduce crowding, Basa said its members have partnered with other role players to launch a number of ‘click-and-collect’ platforms that allow customers to place their orders online or via SMS and pick up their purchases at designated times. They have also promoted a toll-free hotline (0800 014 856) which citizens can call to report incidents of criminality linked to the sale and consumption of alcohol.

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 “Basa believes that a third alcohol ban will do more harm than good. We will therefore continue to engage with government on what needs to be done to save lives and livelihoods as we work together to beat Covid-19.”

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