Beer Beer Everywhere, Nor Any Drop To Drink In Bengal

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Kolkata: Almost all top brands of beer have disappeared from stores and bars in the city of joy and in the other areas of the state, apparently because of a logjam over pricing between the government which is now the only distributor of liquor in the state and manufacturers.The scarcity of beer has only arise in Bengal and not in other states.

As per report Haywards 5000, which has revised its pricing, appears to be the only beer brand that is available in most off-shops as bars, pubs and even starred hotels, which had stocked up apprehending the crisis, are fast running out of their inventory.

Worse, the dry period is likely to continue for a few more weeks as most breweries have stopped production and the pricing issue has not yet been resolved. A senior official of the state excise department could not offer much hope. “We are speaking to companies. We hope all brands will be available soon at the retail points,” was all he had to offer.

The West Bengal State Beverages Corporation Ltd (Bevco) took control of the distribution business in the city in the third week of January. The government also revised excise duty, which meant a hike in prices between Rs 40 and Rs 60 for most major beer brands. But most companies are unwilling to increase the price as they feel this will severely affect their business.

The West Bengal State Beverages Corporation Ltd (Bevco) agreed to a price reduction after a few rounds of discussion, but most beer makers balked at even that new reduced pricing. Two major breweries in the state, in Kalyani and Dhaniakhali, have stopped production.

Consumers, however, are now fed up with all the official explanations. New Town’s Kunal Banerjee says he is more concerned about his weekend quota of his favourite ale than these wranglings. “I want my beer during the weekends. The warring parties should iron out their differences and make sure that the brew is available,” Banerjee said. Bagha Jatin resident Aditya Banerjee did not get any beer before Dol last week. “There was no beer at my local off-shop and it was the same story at the Spencer’s in South City,” he rued.

The managing director of one of the breweries that produces a popular beer brand explained that production would not start till the MRP was fixed. “We apprehend a sales dip of 50% because of the revised excise duty,” he said.

SAB Miller, which produces Haywards 5000, is the only company that has agreed to the revised pricing at Rs 140, an increase of Rs 30 from the previous price.

The shortage at retail points has been brewing since the start of the year, with private distributors keen on clearing old stocks and refusing to pick up fresh ones lest they got stranded with stock. Big players apprehended this crisis and started building up their stock. But even that stock is now diminishing fast.

A liaison officer for a star hotel in central Kolkata said that they were fast running out of premium beer brands.

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