Euphoria and delight was back amongst alcohol beverages consumers across the country as liquor stores doors were opened on Wednesday. However alcohol sellers are still counting losses.
The lift on alcohol ban started with long queues formed outside alcohol supplying shops, as consumers jostled to purchase their favourite drinks to quell their two months thirst.
Although there is an enthusiasm amongst the elbow benders, the announcement of new rules by Minister of Trade Peggy Serame applying to lifting of the ban was received with low spirit by the dealers.
Though they welcome the reopening of sector, traders moan that new rules are not making any big change in terms of returns.
The chairman of Botswana Alcohol Industry Association (BAIA) Mmoloki Molokomme told this newspaper that it is obvious that the industry has made losses during the lockdown period.
As the voice of the businesses that deal with alcohol, he said, they welcome with cheerful smile the decision by government to lift the ban after prolonged negotiations.
“This is just the beginning of the reopening of economic activity in the alcohol industry and we bear in mind the dreadful financial losses that the majority of the alcohol businesses – bars, suppliers and producers – encountered as a result of lockdown. We urge businesses to take the rules as they are at the moment since like all sectors alcohol is also starting slow as well,” he stated.
He further buttressed that it took the association to sweat more while negotiating with government to lift the ban on alcohol; thus urging the sellers and consumers to behave well too.
“We agreed in good faith with the government to stick to the regulations that are in place now to sell alcohol for home consumption. The state of emergency is still on and if our businesses don’t adhere to the rules government can re-impose ban on alcohol sale at any time,” Molokomme said.
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi on Wednesday warned that he will reintroduce the ban on the sale of alcohol if parties in value chain don’t cooperate.
He pleaded with sellers and buyers to comply with COVID-19 health regulations as stipulated by Ministry of Health and Wellness while buying and consuming their drinks to avoid another ban.
Selling of traditional alcohol is still prohibited.
Some businesses have decried that their stock expired during the lockdown period; hence costing them more.
This, according to Molokomme, could possibly result in some of the businesses hiking prices to cover up for the costs incurred during lockdown as only black market thrived.
Some of alcohol businesses also queried the time allocated for sale; asking for more trading time.
Managing Consultant at SPECK Dynamics Sennye Obuseng said the loss of profits during the period of ban on liquor is going to affect government revenue too.
He said the alcohol levy revenue that government gets from the sale of alcohol will decline heavily this year; adding that government should have fully reopened the industry.
“Government is cognizant that it is also losing massively from the alcohol levy standpoint. Also, instead of government limiting hours of trading they should have reduced quantity of alcohol that one could consume in a day because it seems like their motive is to limit consumption. In this way it is not going to work as people buy in bulk during the limited times,” said Obuseng.