India. Tasmac buys 40% more beer to slake election thirst

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To prepare for the poll season, Tasmac has been stocking up on alcohol. For March 2016, Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (Tasmac) ordered 40% more beer than it had in February. The state agency, which controls wholesale and retail liquor trade, also ordered 19% more Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL).

For March 2016, orders for nearly 26 lakh cases of beer were placed as against 18.4 lakh cases in February, an increase of 40%. For March 2015, Tasmac procured 20.9 lakh cases of beer from various breweries.

For IMFL, the state-owned entity placed orders for 57.2 lakh cases for March 2016, making the state the largest liquor market in India by volume. Brandy comprised the bulk of the order (48 lakh cases). Unified Andhra Pradesh was the second biggest market for liquor companies. Tamil Nadu is crucial for spirits companies with monthly sales of around 5 million cases.

Tamil Nadu’s liquor market, tightly controlled by a state corporation, normally sees a shake-up following any change of government. With prohibition being the central political theme of the upcoming election, the fate of an industry which contributes more than Rs 30,000 crore to state’s revenues hangs in balance.

Tasmac operates over 6,600 retail shops. Private participation is limited to about 1,000 bars and 90-odd clubs in the state.

“There is an increase in beer procurement primarily to take care of the severe summer. As regards IMFL, it could be to complete year-end targets,” an official said.

Almost all political parties are campaigning hard with prohibition as the factor to win women voters. “What happens to the man who wants to have a drink? Is any political party thinking of him?” a CEO of a liquor firm quipped.

Total government revenues in Tamil Nadu grew 9.5% for the year ended March 2015 to touch Rs 27,823 crore. “For the current year, the numbers could be much higher as Tasmac effected two price hikes — one for excise duty and the second for manufacturers,” sources said.

The growth in business has been astounding for companies with political connections, while independent liquor companies have suffered a drop in procurement.

For instance, orders for Golden VAT, a company with links to former DMK minister TR Baalu, grew from 15,000 cases in 2010-11 to 35.7 lakh cases in 2015-16. However, Elite, a distillery controlled by associates of former Union minister Jagatratchagan of DMK, saw orders drop to 50.9 lakh cases from 65.2 lakh cases between 2010-11 and 2015-16. Midas, an entity close to the ruling AIADMK, rose like a phoenix during the past five years. Its orders spiked to 112.9 lakh cases in 2015-16 from a meager 31.9 lakh cases in 2010-11.

On the contrary, United Spirits lost market in TN with orders falling to 54.5 lakh cases from 97.4 lakh cases between 2010-11 and 2015-16. Empee too lost out on business with orders falling to 30 lakh cases in 2015-16 from 40.4 lakh cases in 2010-11 while MBDL received orders for 24.4 lakh cases as against 35.6 lakh cases.