National Liquor Traders Council warns: extra restrictions on alcohol sales ‘spell disaster’ for industry, will erode tax revenue

National Liquor Traders Council media statement:

The National Liquor Traders Council has come out in support of government in its efforts to fight the pandemic as we head towards a COVID-19 surge.

The National Liquor Traders Council, South African Liquor Brandowners Association (SALBA), and Vinpro are supportive of our industry partners, the Beer Association of South Africa (BASA), who requested an urgent meeting with Gauteng Premier David Makhura to discuss the sale of alcohol in Gauteng and joint solutions to ensure health guidelines and responsible drinking are paramount while keeping customers safe.

The liquor industry has and will continue to work with the Government in making sure that the policy decisions and regulations take into account the country’s two priorities: to save lives and to save livelihoods.

Lucky Ntimane, Convenor of the National Liquor Trader’s Council said, “Since re-opening, we have worked closely with the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition (DTIC) to implement safety protocols addressing transmission risks across the value chain. We have measures in place for the safety of the workforce and consumers, have made commitments and undertakings around responsible trading, and the promotion of responsible consumption. We also leveraged the liquor industry’s extensive distribution and retail networks nationwide in support of efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19.”

The industry made a “click-and-collect” app available to tavern owners enabling their customers to place an order and be informed when it was ready for collection. This reduced queuing and made for safer purchasing transactions.

“The introduction of stricter regulations or a further ban on alcohol sales is neither a solution for the industry nor our country’s economy. The liquor industry has a deep and wide value chain which employs a little under one million people across the country. Any additional restriction on sales would spell a disaster for the industry, as well as the continued loss of excise revenue to the fiscus,” he added.

In addition to the disastrous economic impact, stricter regulations, including shorter trading hours or further restrictions on trading, would likely increase panic buying and overcrowding at retail outlets, increasing the risks of transmission of the virus.

Tavern owners are grateful to be open again and are bound to fulfil the agreed COVID-19 regulations and commitments on-the-ground. Some taverners have even devised smart ways of making sure physical distancing was observed — sometimes using empty beer crates to demarcate areas in the queues — and the consumers were willing to go along with it.

BASA, Distell, and the liquor industry have made significant commitments supporting the taverners during COVID-19 trading environment through their supply of care packs comprising masks, sanitisers, and an informational booklet on responsible trading of alcohol and how to be compliant with the government’s pandemic regulation. Consumatech’s online marketplace platform Sisonke has also contributed immensely towards a safer trading platform for taverns in this regard.

“Of course, we are also concerned that further restrictions or an outright ban on alcohol sales would lead to a growth in the illicit liquor market. The illicit market does not comply with the measures implemented by the industry and will lead to further irresponsible consumption of alcohol,” noted Ntimane.

The alcohol industry remains committed to working with Government and the rest of the alcohol industry to save businesses and jobs in the sector while ensuring its safety, responsible trading, and the sensible consumption of alcohol during our joint effort to fight against this invincible enemy affecting us all.

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