Kenya seeks to raise minimum packaging for alcoholic drinks to 750 millilitres

Bottles of assorted alcoholic beverages.

KENYA – The East African Breweries Limited (EABL), one of Kenya’s leading alcoholic beverages manufacturer has opposed the proposed law that seeks to peg the minimum allowable packaging for alcoholic drinks to be 750 millilitres from the current 250 millilitres.

“The principal object of this Bill is to amend the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act, in order to ensure that packaging of alcoholic drinks are in quantities not below 750 millilitres,” says the Bill, which has been tabled in Parliament and set for debate.

According to Wundanyi Member of Parliament Danson Mwakuwona, sponsor of the bill, the amendment seeks to deal with the menace of excessive drinking occasioned by the sale of very low quantities of alcoholic drinks, making it accessible to the youth.

If passed, EABL argues that the new packaging rule will make alcohol expensive for low-income earners who will turn to consumption of cheap illicit drinks.

“Our volumes will drop because even now we have the 750 ml brands but the sales are low.”

EABL spokesperson

A spot check in liquor outlets by Business Daily, showed that a quarter or 250 ml of EABL’s branded Richot goes for Sh350 (US$3.18) while the 750 ml package retails at Sh1,100 (US$10).

Even with the presence of the 250ml as a cheaper alternative, most people buy the quarter and share, according to EABL’s observation, bring the question “Who will afford the 750 ml?”

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“Our volumes will drop because even now we have the 750 ml brands but the sales are low. Beer and the spirits will be inaccessible to low-income Kenyans,” EABL spokesperson told the Business Daily.

Further to that, the proposed law will force manufacturers to rejig their production lines in a multimillion-shilling revamp to accommodate the larger bottles.

In addition, it will serve a major blow on the alcohol industry that is struggling to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, following reopening of bars after a six-month period of shut-down.

Kenya shut down bars on March 25 after reporting the first coronavirus case, occasioning an economic meltdown in the industry marked by thousands of job losses and permanent closure of some establishments.

Even as Kenya seeks to make its packaging threshold one of the highest in the region, neighbouring Rwanda bans packaging of alcoholic drinks in plastic bottles.

The Rwanda Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has prohibited the packaging of alcoholic drinks in plastic bottles as they pose a threat to both consumers health and the environment.

According to the authority some of the plastic packages used, are made of chemicals which get re-activated and dissolve in the drink following prolonged exposure to heat and contact with alcohols, thus posing a health risk to consumers once ingested.

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