Alcohol ban: industry requests urgent meeting with Minister Patel


21 July 2021

Alcohol ban: industry requests urgent meeting with Minister Patel

Following the wave of violence and destruction in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, which saw 161 liquor outlets and distribution centres looted and damaged, the beer industry urgently calls for the alcohol ban to be lifted so that legal businesses can operate, to avoid a possible collapse of the industry and the million livelihoods it supports.

The Beer Association of South Africa (BASA) along with the Liquor Traders Association of South Africa (LTASA) and VINPRO has therefore written to Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the devastating impact of the ban and alternative interventions that could save both lives and livelihoods during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is estimated that the latest four week ban has put 9206 jobs in the alcohol industry at risk, with a potential loss of R10.2 billion in taxes and excise duties. This follows the three previous bans which resulted in over 7400 jobs lost in the beer industry alone as well as R14.2 billion in lost beer sales revenue and more than a R7.8 billion loss in taxes and excise duties.

BASA has 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.

This includes Aegir Brewery in Noordhoek, which was established in 2015 and had been thriving before the Covid-19 lockdown and prohibition of alcohol. The brewery had expanded its staff complement of 12 to 60 people and opened a second restaurant in Constantia. As a result of the bans, the new restaurant closed permanently putting 6 people out of work. Since then a further  12 workers have been retrenched, while the remaining staff members have been forced to work on short time and short pay.

Owner of Aegir Brewery, Rory Lancellas says “we went from increasing our staff compliment by fivefold, to identifying the most vulnerable staff, who had families and children so that we could prioritize their income over others. We cannot sustain this for much longer. I also have children, it’s very hard to watch families go through this.”

Another business hard hit is Airport Craft Breweries, which opened in 2014 at the domestic departure and arrivals at OR Tambo International Airport. Before the lockdown the brewery employed just over 100 staff members. More than half of these employees have subsequently lost their jobs as a result of the bans.

Chief brewer Phumelo Marali has been forced to go and stay with family in Gqeberha as a result of not earning an income over the past few weeks. He says: “the sad thing is that we have elderly people who work in the kitchens as chefs and catering assistants. If our company closes completely, they will not get a job anywhere else, as it is very hard to be hired at the age of 55 or 60. The pandemic and alcohol bans have really robbed them of their opportunity to provide for their families.”

These businesses as well as thousands of others will simply not survive a continued alcohol ban. At the same time, we know many South Africans are still obtaining alcohol from the illicit industry, which is already worth R20.5 billion. The mass looting of liquor outlets and distributors last week in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng has served to boost the illegal sale of alcohol even further, making the current ban even more nonsensical.

As the cabinet member directly responsible for trade and industry in the country, it is critical that Minister Patel takes up the industry’s concerns in order to save a sector that is vital to our economy, 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.  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.

Media Enquiries:
Nicole Mirkin (Press Officer)
084 552 3122