While alcohol sales were generally off to a slow start yesterday, the booze industry has called on government to be transparent about possible future bans as the country deals with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although the liquor industry welcomed the lifting of a sales ban, it remains cautiously optimistic about government’s next move.
The most recent alcohol sales ban has uprooted the industry’s long-term survival.
Government’s decisions have left thousands unemployed and in debt, warns Wendy Pienaar. She is the CEO of the Craft Brewers Association South Africa (CBASA).
“(Up to) 87.5% of craft brewers are at risk of shutting down permanently due to the impact of the ban.
“(A further) 60.3% of small business owners of craft breweries have had to retrench staff. Job losses occur due to depleted reserves and savings which were used to survive the previous bans,” she says.
According to Pienaar, 41.3% of brewers will have to consider destroying stock which was prepared for the festive season. This is because it will soon expire in storage.
In addition, 77.8% are unable to pay their rent, suppliers or employees due to debt accrual.
“It is no longer a matter of keeping the industry alive. It is keeping people alive.”
Pienaar indicated that the craft brewing industry did everything in their power to persevere under restrictive environments.
Craft brewers nightmare
“CBASA members have maximised their credit extensions. They are now drowning in debt with no ability to pay off their loans or rental fees.
“Already, 30% of local breweries have been forced to permanently shut their doors. 165 000 people have already lost their jobs. There is also the plight of businesses that run alongside ours, (like) hop and barley farmers, packaging supplier.”
Pienaar receives daily calls from brewers who are unable to pay their staff, or feed their own families.
“For hungry people, it is very hard to pivot to new ways to innovate and stay employed. Therefore, it has become a priority ensuring that our brewers and their staff have food for their families; it is no longer a matter of keeping the industry alive. It is keeping people alive.”
Vinpro MD Rico Basson said the alcohol sales ban placed the 362-year-old wine industry under immense pressure.
“Sales of alcohol for on and offsite consumption during restricted hours of trading marks the start of the long road to recovery. It has come too late for many small businesses that have not been able to weather the storm of Covid-19.
“Additionally, with the harvest for this year’s wine underway, the impetus to create sales for our existing wine stock is all the more pertinent if we are to safeguard our future.
“We continue to implore our consumers to drink responsibly during the country’s ongoing lockdown.”
Kurt Moore, chief executive of SALBA, says, “After this six-week ban that has left the industry on its knees, this development is no quick fix for our long-term economic survival.
“We call on government to work together with us to find a workable solution going forward that protects lives, while preserving the livelihoods of around one million people who rely on some form of income from this sector.”
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The minister of agriculture in the Western Cape, Dr Ivan Meyer, says the alcohol industry simply cannot afford another sales ban.
“We also need places which sell alcohol to take greater responsibility for their patrons, helping to deal with the negative impacts of over-excessive drinking which results in trauma cases at our hospitals.”
The industry also urges the public to call the Consumer Goods Council on 0800 014 856 to report any alcohol-related violations.