South African government hearkens to alcohol industry’s call on lifting sale ban

SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa’s alcohol industry can finally breath a sigh of relief following President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing the lifting of alcohol sale ban which had crippled the sector with players constantly being vocal in their demands for resumption of trade.

The contentious ban has been partially lifted, with the government stipulating a raft of directives that need to be followed including sale of alcohol by licensed premises for off-site consumption has been permitted between Mondays – Thursdays, from 10am to 6pm.

Duty-free shops, registered wineries, wine farms, microbreweries and micro distilleries will also be able to sell alcohol for off-site consumption during their normal licensed operating hours.

Sale of alcohol by licensed premises for on-site consumption such as restaurants and taverns have been permitted throughout the week from 10am to 10pm.

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Though Ramaphosa did not address online sales of alcohol, some retailers have notified customers that alcohol ordered during the ban will now be delivered during normal working hours.

“These restrictions still limit the recovery of the beer sector, but we are reassured that we can start trading again.”

Beer Association of South Africa

The announcement came as the country started recording low rates of COVID-19 infections coupled with the arrival of the first shipment of vaccines – one million AstraZeneca doses – as a chance to “turn the tide” on the pandemic.

“The average rate of infections has been steadily coming down over the past few weeks, indicating that we have passed the peak of the second wave,” President Ramaphosa said.

The government had imposed the ban from 29th December to keep hospital beds free of alcohol-related trauma cases as COVID-19 infections soared.

The South African Beer Association (BASA) has welcomed the relaxation of the ban, but said the situation for SMEs remained “disastrous” under the remaining restrictions.

“While there is no guarantee that our craft brewery will recover, the President has offered small businesses a glimmer of hope – although it may be too little too late for some,” BASA said in a statement.

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“While these restrictions still limit the recovery of the beer sector, we are relieved to be able to begin trading again.”

According to a recent report by Craft Brewers Association of South Africa (CBASA), craft brewers are on 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.

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.

Sibani Mngadi, chairperson of the South Africa Liquor Brand Owners’ Association (Salba), said it was a relief that the ban was lifted and further called for more structured engagement from the government with the industry so that they are not surprised with restrictions which are suddenly imposed.

He added it was important for alcohol producers and traders to also be involved in the consultation process on alcohol restrictions and bans. 

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