THE struggling alcohol industry has warned that nearly 10 000 jobs could be at risk if the government does not lift the ongoing ban on the trade and sale of alcohol.
The Beer Association of South Africa (Basa) on Wednesday said the recent unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, coupled with the ongoing ban on alcohol, was putting many livelihoods at risk.
The wave of violence and destruction in KZN and Gauteng saw 161 liquor outlets and distribution centres looted and damaged during sporadic outbreaks.
Basa said the mass looting of liquor outlets and distributors has served to boost the illegal sale of alcohol even further, “making the current ban even more nonsensical”.
The beer association called for an urgent lifting of restrictions so that legal businesses can operate to avoid a possible collapse of the industry.
It said it had also been inundated with stories from craft brewers whose businesses have been devastated by the latest ban, just as they were slowly getting back on their feet following the previous three bans.
"These businesses as well as thousands of others will simply not survive a continued alcohol ban," it said.
"At the same time, we know many South Africans are still obtaining alcohol from the illicit industry, which is already worth R20.5 billion. "
Basa, along with the Liquor Traders’ Association of SA and VINPRO has written to Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the devastating impact of the ban.
The association estimated the latest four-week ban has put 9 206 jobs in the alcohol industry at risk, with a potential loss of R10.2bn in taxes and excise duties.
This follows the three previous bans which resulted in over 7 400 jobs lost in the beer industry alone as well as R14.2bn in lost beer sales revenue and more than a R7.8bn loss in taxes and excise duties.
Basa said it was critical that Patel takes up the industry’s concerns in order to save a sector, to ensure its ability to continue supporting over one million livelihoods during these difficult times.
"Disappointingly, no response has been received from Minister Patel’s office to date," it said.
"The beer industry therefore publicly calls on Minister Patel to schedule this meeting as a matter of urgency and to intervene to save a sector on the brink of collapse."
The issues related to restrictions on alcohol are expected to be discussed by the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) when it meets on Sunday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is thus expected to brief the nation on the government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic and whether Adjusted Level 4 restrictions will be lifted as the third wave of infections had started levelling off.
Briefing the media yesterday, acting minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni declined to commit to a comment on restrictions on alcohol.
"I do not want to pre-empt the discussion of the NCCC and the reports that will be tabled there," she said.
"Therefore, I would not have a comment or venture a response on the sale of alcohol."
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE