SA’s beer industry crosses fingers that the alcohol ban won’t prolong beyond mid-January

SOUTH AFRICA – It’s just days after the government of South Africa reinstated the ban on alcohol sales that the industry players have already started feeling the pinch brought by the move.

The Beer Association of South Africa (BASA) has called for the lift of the renewed ban, saying small craft brewers would not survive if it was extended beyond mid-January.

The prohibition, designed in part to ease the burden on hospitals from vehicle accidents and drinking-related violence, was implemented nationwide on December 29.

However, this being the third ban on the industry, it is set to escalate the dire situation it has been in as the previous two alcohol bans, which lasted more than three months combined, cost SA’s beer industry an estimated 7,400 jobs and R14.2bn (US$940m) in revenue, according to the association.

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“BASA is therefore calling on President Ramaphosa to consider the plight of craft brewers by not extending the blanket ban on alcohol beyond 15 January.”

Beer Association of South Africa

The industry body comprising of the Craft Brewers Association, Heineken South Africa and South African Breweries, has warned that independent craft breweries are “on the brink of closure”.

“The third ban is devastating to craft brewers, who are small businesses owners who work within small margins,” said CEO Wendy Pienaar.

“Members have depleted their savings and are in desperate need of financial relief,” she said.

The association said it was aware of the severity of the health crisis and supported all efforts to curb the coronavirus infection rate, but stressed the need to work together “to save both lives and livelihoods in this fight”.

Serving as a light at the end of the tunnel, the restrictions are set to be reviewed by January 15.

“BASA is therefore calling on President Ramaphosa to consider the plight of craft brewers by not extending the blanket ban on alcohol beyond 15 January,” it pleaded.

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In the same vein, Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s (AB InBev’s) South African division is seeking to challenge the ban in court, saying the measure to contain the coronavirus is unconstitutional.

SA Breweries, which makes popular lagers including Castle Lite, Hansa and Carling Black Label, supports a reduction in trading times, but sees a prohibition as “beyond what is reasonable and necessary,” according to a statement it recently issued.

The Johannesburg-based unit argues the decision restricts rights including freedom to trade and human dignity.

Distell Group, South Africa’s biggest wine and spirits producer, doesn’t support legal action at this stage and prefers to work closely with government to resolve the matter, reports Moneyweb.

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