SA beer industry warns craft brewers will not survive extended alcohol ban

JOHANNESBURG – The Beer Association of South Africa (BASA) on Wednesday urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to lift a renewed ban on alcohol, saying small craft brewers would not survive if it was extended beyond mid January.

In a national address last week in which he reintroduced restrictions aimed at trying to arrest a surge in Covid-19 cases, Ramaphosa said excessive alcohol consumption was adding pressure on the already strained health system by driving up the number of trauma cases in hospitals.

Among other measures, he said the sale of alcohol from retail outlets and the on-site consumption of alcohol would now not be permitted, the third such ban since the government first imposed a lockdown last March in response to the pandemic.

On Wednesday BASA, which comprises the Craft Brewers Association, Heineken South Africa and South African Breweries, 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”.

The third ban on alcohol sales had had a devastating impact on small brewers working within tiny margins, Craft Brewers Association chief executive Wendy Pienaar said.

“It is now no longer a question of keeping businesses open – it has become a question of whether business owners, their employees and families will have any food to eat this month,” she said.

“To make things worse, these craft brewers are the very same people who stepped up during the hard lockdown last year by producing soup and stew in their brew houses from donated vegetables to feed over two million hungry people, while also manufacturing sanitiser to help fight Covid-19. ”

“It is heart breaking to receive calls from brewers who are now in danger of losing everything. We have to stand together to find alternative solutions to the outright ban on the sale of alcohol,” Pienaar added.

She cited Lethu Tshabangu, owner of Ukhamba Beerworx, who opened a new taproom in Cape Town last year, but was now R300,000 (more than US$20,000) in debt as a consequence of the alcohol bans.

“We need to fight Covid-19 without starting other fires – you don’t bring a snake into your home because you have a problem with rats,” Tshabangu said in comments incorporated in the BASA statement.

“The president is protecting us from Covid-19, only to kill us with hunger because we are not allowed to work – the government has condemned my livelihood, and those of my employees, whose jobs meant a great deal to them – they also have families and children to feed.”

BASA said an estimated 7,400 jobs had been lost in the first two bans, as well as R14.2 billion in sales revenue and more than a R7.4 billion in taxes and excise duties.

“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.

African News Agency

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