New Zeland. Cheap supermarket beer ‘doing harm’

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Beer is often cheaper in supermarkets than it is for pubs to buy direct from breweries, MPs have been told.
Ken Hix, owner of Auckland’s QF Tavern, told a committee considering the Alcohol Reform Bill yesterday that the two big supermarket chains had an extraordinary amount of power over the breweries.
“I believe they are doing harm,” he said.
“They are cutting the margins to the point where it’s very difficult for the breweries to move. They haven’t got a choice.
“My price from the brewery is often more than I could get at the supermarket.”
Mr Hix was one of many people in the liquor industry at yesterday’s hearing who supported the bill’s measures to stem the proliferation of alcohol outlets since the industry was liberalised in 1989.
“We do have a problem in New Zealand. We do need to address it,” he said.
“I accept my role as a drug seller and that I have certain responsibilities to do that within the legislation. I know we take that very seriously.”
But Mr Hix said the real problem was the spread of liquor sales in shops and corner grocers that had led to price-cutting.
“I don’t know how supermarket operators can sleep at night.”
Mr Hix said that when he was young, it was cheaper to buy beer in a pub than from a bottle store.
“Now you can buy a Steinlager in a supermarket for $2. In my bars it’s $8 to $8.50. So of course people are going into carparks and pre-loading.”
The bill, the first major reform of the industry since 1989, would give local councils powers to control the numbers and locations of liquor outlets. It would make all bars close by 4am and would ban advertising of price discounts of more than 25 per cent below the “normal” price of an alcoholic product.
But Murray Spearman, manager of the Portage and Waitakere licensing trusts in West Auckland, said the bill failed to define the “normal” price and did not go far enough.
“We suggest the best method is a ban on alcohol product price advertising,” he said.
Dave Hookway, a health worker from a Kerikeri group called Be Free, which started out campaigning against methamphetamine and realised that alcohol did more damage, gave MPs photos of advertising for a 12-pack of 250ml cans of bourbon and coke, with an 8 per cent alcohol content, for $12.
“If you do the maths, that’s 20 standard drinks,” he said.
“If you consume 30 standard drinks you might die. If you are young it might be less. So for $18 you can die.”
He called for a legal minimum price on all alcoholic products – an option the Government has agreed to investigate by giving retailers a year to provide sales and price data. If the data is not supplied ministers will consider regulating to get it.
“If alcohol had a minimum price per standard drink of, say, $1.50, those 12-packs would cost a minimum of $30,” Mr Hookway said. “Then we could leave alcohol in the supermarkets because they wouldn’t be able to discount it.”
Dr Grant Christie, of Community Alcohol and Drug Services, said his service was seeing alcoholics as young as 14. He said youngsters who started drinking early were the most likely to develop alcohol problems later, and parents should delay introducing children to alcohol as late as possible.
He said young people aged 16 or 17 were commonly taking two dozen cans of beer to a party.
“So if there is one key issue we would like to bring in, it is that alcohol is too cheap.
“We have a heavy drinking culture and we are facilitating that by having cheap, available alcohol.
“We need to do something about that. If we don’t, we are going to have in 10 years’ time a generation of adults with alcohol problems.”