India. Kerala is turning into a beer-guzzling state

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Kerala is slowly turning into a beer-guzzling state with a 55% increase in sales over a three year period from 2014 to 2016.

Liquor sales dipped slightly, by 3%, in the same period though the state had clamped down the sale of alcohol in 418 bars following the implementation of the new alcohol policy.

Data accessed by TOI under RTI Act from Kerala State Beverages Corporation limited (Bevco) showed that the ban failed to curb alcohol consumption in Kerala.Moreover, the policy has spurred the sale of beer, which is not a healthy drinking option because the beer that is being consumed by tipplers have a higher alcohol percentage.

Bar owners say that consumers are more inclined towards buying `strong beer’ as a compensatory shift from hard liquor and a few others even try out a cocktail of wine and beer to get their required dose of intoxication.

“The beer consumption has witnessed a 60% increase this year,” said Bevco MD H Venkatesh after analysing sales.

Overall, there has been an increase of 23.82% in the total sales revenue (including taxes) of alcohol from 2013-14 to 2015-16. The total revenue collected increased from Rs 9,350.27 crore to Rs 11,577.64 crore.

The revenue procured from beer sales has increased by 55.39% from Rs 512.2 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 795.94 crore in 2015-16 whereas the revenue procured from the sale of IMFL has remained more or less the same at Rs 3,947.88 crore in 2013-4 and Rs 3,966.74 crore in 2015-16. Also, the closure of bars has become a boon for Bevco and other alcohol outlets.

But, Consumerfed MD M Ramanunny , gave another view. “The alcohol price and taxes were hiked following prohibition, therefore the revenue alone cannot be the parameter to measure consumption,” he said.

The sale tax revenue from beer sales increased by 126.03% from 285.93 crore in 2013 -14 to Rs 646.50 crore in 2015-16. The revenue from the sale value (i.e. excluding sale tax) of beer in April increased from Rs 55.78 crore in 2014 to Rs 99.44 crore in 2016, a 78.21% rise. The sales tax revenue rose by 160.82%, from Rs 30.96 crore in 2014 to Rs 80.75 crore in 2016.

“The wholesale cost has remained more or less the same for the past three years, even if there was an increase, we were directed by authorities to maintain our previous rates,”
said an alcohol distributor who reported a quantitative increase in the consumption of his product within the state.