Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Alcohol industry recovery – glass half full

The second Covid wave in SA, Govt’s tighter lockdown and yet another Prohibition proved a triple Festive Season Grinch for an exasperated population.

It was painful to see an already shattered industry – one that supports over one million livelihoods across farming, retail, manufacturing, logistics and SMME bases – being pushed to breaking point due to trade suspensions.

News from the Presidency lifting the alcohol ban on Feb 1 provides much-needed relief for this sector, but it will undoubtedly count the economic cost for a long time to come. 

Seeing the fall out has been dramatic. SAB a stalwart in the industry, announced last month that they were forced to cancel a further R2.5bn of capital investment, bringing the cancelled capex since alcohol sales were banned to R5bn. 

Hellen Ndlovu, director of regulatory and public policy at SAB, has laid bare the figures of an industry that contributes R173bn to the country’s GDP, which lost R21bn in revenue during the first two bans in 2020 and 165,000 jobs losses across the chain.

SA’s problematic relationship with alcohol

At the same time, the debate as to how we deal with our attitudes around alcohol in South Africa is long overdue, with a tip ratio that needs to find a level playing field.

When we celebrate in our homes, in bars and restaurants and at social gatherings, the general view seems to be one of a symbiotic nature, that equates having a great time with a beverage in hand, almost as if you can’t have a good time without it. 

When you see pictures posted of the country’s largest hospital, Chris Hani Baragwanath reporting no trauma patients on New Year’s Eve for the first time ever, one has to surely pause, reset and engage. 

A dramatic drop in alcohol-related admissions from car accidents to gender-based violence and related crimes proved the importance of having the ban in place to keep the focus on managing the virus and not burdening an already overwhelmed healthcare system.

If alcohol-related trauma cases interfere with efforts to combat the virus, one has to assume that the booze ban could be back in effect.

So where to from here?

While the wine industry, breweries, liquor stores and restaurants will be rejoicing as restrictions on trade are lifted, surely, we have to emerge with lessons learnt and a more committed approach as to how we treat alcohol and its consumption. 

The question that needs to be answered is how the industry trades again while at the same time finding a long-term solution to encourage responsible drinking. Undoubtedly it is going to be incredibly hard to switch such an ingrained narrative unless communities, individual households, retailers, and government are committed and mobilised to make the change.

Chief executive of the Gauteng Liquor Board, Raymond Martin, addressing a liquor traders’ seminar, encouraged members to put measures in place around responsible drinking saying, “These sessions should not be about ticking boxes of targets met. When you go back to your communities there must be an impact.”

Noble sentiments but who will manage the checks and balances? 

Currently, legislation around zero tolerance to drinking and driving has been closed for comment and is seemingly on its way to being passed into law.

Initiatives around increasing the price of higher alcoholic beverages, raising the drinking age to 21, no alcohol advertising on social and social media and a liability clause for alcohol sellers, are all under review on the directive of President Ramaphosa. 

The conversation is long overdue in terms of accountability, one that touches each and every South African. As the ban is lifted, a much-needed recovery in every sense of the word will be required going forward.

Authored by Mike Smollan, chief growth and innovation officer at Smollan.


No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.