Mbabane: Amid the month-long extension of the National Emergency which means COVID-19 regulations during the ongoing national lockdown, government says it has not forgotten about alcohol manufacturers and booze lovers.
Minister of Commerce Industry and Trade Manqoba Khumalo told Independent News that “as we ease the lockdown, we will eventually get to the stage where the alcohol industry can start manufacturing again.”
Khumalo was responding to questions from this publication about what government was doing to ensure that it prevents the pouring of perished stock down the drain by Eswatini Beverages and other wholesalers. The minister said government was regularly engaging with the management of Eswatini Beverages, adding that they are committed to support the fight against COVID-19 by abiding by government decisions.
“Between now and then, we will encourage them to continue talking to us about practical challenges they encounter so we look for solutions together,” the minister said.
Eswatini Beverages’ Head of Legal and Corporate Affairs Mpumelelo Makhubu confirmed that they were in constant communication with government regarding possible means of reopening the industry. However, he was quick to say: “I cannot detail to the media what is being discussed by the two parties.”
As of May 11, South African Breweries (SAB) was permitted to move its stock of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks between its manufacturing plants and its depots, after reaching an agreement with government.
Prior to this agreement, no alcohol was permitted to be moved, either by individuals or manufacturers and distributors.
Warehouses at SAB’s seven breweries are currently at full capacity and are unable to absorb any further inventory which impacts any current beer in the production process being bottled and stored, thereby resulting in SAB having to destroy and dispose of the stock.
Due to the ban of alcohol manufacturing in the country unconfirmed reports suggest that there is an upsurge in the sale of illicit alcoholic beverages reportedly smuggled from Mozambique. However, by the time of compiling this report, Chief Police, Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati could not give a detailed report of the cases but she promised to provide it tomorrow.
In South Africa, South Africa’s Revenue Services Commissioner Edward Kieswetter reported last month that the republic’s economy has lost R1.5 billion in revenue due to the ban on alcohol and cigarette sales.
“In terms of beer sales, we’ve under-recovered E664 million month to date, in terms of wine we’ve under-recovered almost E300 million, spirits just over E400 million and cigarettes just over R300 million. So year to date, our under recovery from these activities is E1.5 billion and we’re just through the first month,” he was quoted by Eyewitness News to have said.