Business | Business News
With craft breweries barely able to keep their heads above water, the government’s four-day offsite alcohol sale ban could not have come at a worse time.
Although the alcohol sector as a whole is still suffering from a total of 19 weeks in lost trade days, amounting to R36 billion in sales revenue losses and a further R29 billion in tax revenue losses, more than 85% of craft breweries teeter on the edge of permanent closure as a result of the previous bans, according to the Beer Association of South Africa (Basa).
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Craft Brewers Association of South Africa’ (CBASA’) Wendy Pienaar told The Citizen the sector is bracing itself for “a significant decrease in sales and revenue” over the long weekend.
“This is another blow to a sector that is so desperately still trying to recover from the disastrous restrictions faced over the past 12 months.
“Craft breweries in South Africa cannot continue to survive should random bans and strange restrictions be put in place at a moment’s notice,” Pienaar said.
She said these businesses rely on brewery visits, yet another blow to an industry that has plummeted.
South African Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba) CEO Kurt Moore said the industry was “disappointed” with restricting offsite consumption trade.
“We do not understand the rationale for the decision and we will be requesting the government to explain the science behind it.
“While it is undeniable that some people have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol that could lead to harmful behaviour, to single out alcohol as the single-most important factor in the spread of Covid-19 is wrong.”
Pienaar argued that alcohol sale restrictions first emanated from the need to relieve pressure on the country’s embattled healthcare system. But there is no significant pressure at present and therefore “no clear rationale for a four-day ban on the sale of alcohol at the moment”.
“In order to ascribe the drop in trauma admissions to the alcohol bans, one also has to control the influence of all the other imposed regulatory changes such as the curfews and restrictions on gatherings.
“Previous alcohol restrictions were imposed at the same time as the curfew which reduced mobility, so we believe it is disingenuous to ascribe the decline in trauma cases solely to the alcohol ban,” Moore said.
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He said Salba had consulted with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and the government through platforms such as the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).
However, despite requesting data and scientific evidence which informed their decisions, no such information had been provided to the alcohol industry.
As such, Salba submitted a request this data be shared through the Promotion of Access to Information Act.
South African Breweries (SAB) corporate affairs vice-president Zoleka Lisa said weekends, especially those with public holidays, are when 50% to 60% of alcohol sales are made, which means just four days could put thousands of small businesses at a “serious disadvantage”.
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Offsite liquor traders account for 30% of alcohol sales.
Lisa said offsite purchases were arguably safer from a Covid-19 protocol perspective.
She warned small businesses “will not survive another wave of restrictions”.
Moore said the entire alcohol industry and its value chain had been “irreparably damaged” and that 200,000 jobs were now at risk in both the formal and informal economy.
Investment has also declined significantly.
As a result, the illicit alcohol trade continues to build momentum, posing significant dangers to society.
“Don’t limit trade, limit movement. Do this and continue to enforce social norms and we can truly save lives,” Lisa said.
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