SOUTH AFRICA – The current ban on alcohol sales in South Africa is pushing craft brewers to the brink of closure with 87.5% of the businesses at a risk of shutting down permanently due to the economic impact of the ban.

Already, 30% of the local breweries have been forced to permanently shut their doors and 165,000 people have lost their jobs.

This was revealed by Craft Brewers Association of South Africa (CBASA) who undertook a survey amongst its members to assess the impact of COVID-19 and its related restriction on the sector.

The industry has been hard hit with a staggering 77.8% battling piling debts making them unable to pay their rent, suppliers or employees.

With lack of capital to meet their operating expenses and settle their debts, 60.3% of small business owners of craft breweries have had to retrench staff.

The current situation did not just occur abruptly as the industry has been showered with non-ending blows since March 2020 when the first alcohol ban was put in place.

Now with this third ban, craft brewers have depleted their reserves and savings which were used to survive the previous blanket bans on the sector.

The situation even gets grimmer as 41.3 % of craft brewers will have to consider destroying stock which was prepared for the festive season, as it will soon expire in storage.

South Africa’s first black female brewery owner, Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela of Brewsters Craft, is one of the many small business owners that stands to lose everything.

“This is a young woman who has risen up against adversity to build a successful business, only to see it collapse around her as a result of the ban,” said Beer Association of South Africa.

Call to government

Keeping in solidarity with the sector players, BASA and CBASA have had to start issuing food vouchers for the employees that are still working in the few craft breweries left standing.

This is a tragic tale for an industry that previously used its resources to deliver 2.9 million meals during the hard lockdown last year.

“We need to know when the ban will be lifted, and we need the assurance that – at the very least – the ban on off-site consumption will be lifted soon.”

Craft Brewers Association of South Africa

The two association maintain that it is urgent that the blanket ban on alcohol trade be reversed without delay.

“While Basa remains acutely aware of the need for urgent interventions to curb the spread of Covid-19, the blanket ban has come at the expense of thousands of livelihoods. To make matters worse, the plight of craft-brewers has fallen on deaf ears,” CBASA said.

Basa has written to the Presidency and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC). Both the Presidency and DTIC have acknowledged receipt of the letter and Basa awaits further communication from their offices with regards to urgent engagements.

“We call on government to act urgently to save these livelihoods in a way that does not risk lives,” it added.

Operating with no risk factor

Other than calling for the lifting of the ban, the association have suggested a raft of measures that can be undertaken to ensure alcohol sales can be done in a way that protects people from Covid-19 and does not compromise the stability of our healthcare system.

Some of the suggestions include lifting the ban on off-site consumption to allow people to drink responsibly in their homes without the risks associated with on-site consumption.

To this end, Basa members have launched a number of ‘click-and-collect’ platforms that make it possible for customers to place their orders online or via SMS, and pick up their purchases at designated times to avoid crowding.

Also, BASA has indicated that it will cut off supply to any outlets and establishments that are found guilty of flouting Covid-19 directives and health regulations.

“We need to know when the ban will be lifted, and we need the assurance that – at the very least – the ban on off-site consumption will be lifted soon,” CBasa said.

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