Alcohol contributes over 1.1tn shillings in taxes- Brewers tell gov't

The Uganda Alcohol Industry Association (UAIA) convened with government officials today to voice their apprehensions regarding the proposed Alcohol Drinks Control Bill 2023. The bill, designed to regulate various aspects of the alcohol industry, has stirred concerns among industry leaders, prompting a call for revisions to certain clauses.

In a consultation meeting held at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning boardroom, members of the association engaged with the Minister of State for Investment, Hon Evelyn Anite, and the Minister of State for Trade, Hon David Bahati, highlighting critical issues that, if not addressed, could have far-reaching consequences for both the economy and the alcohol industry.

One of the primary concerns raised by the UAIA pertains to the exclusion and non-regulation of native liquor, which constitutes a significant portion of the alcohol market, accounting for 65% of production and holding a 50% market share. The association also expressed reservations about the proposed shift of the implementation mandate from the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives to the Ministry of Health. Additionally, concerns were raised about the need for additional licensing for manufacturers and sellers of alcoholic beverages.

The proposed operating hours (5 pm to 10 pm on weekdays) and the requirement to verify ages for online alcohol sales were also met with skepticism by the industry representatives. The UAIA cautioned that these measures could have a detrimental ripple effect on the economy, impacting numerous individuals and businesses within the alcohol value chain.

Onapito Ekomoloit, the former Chairman of the Uganda Alcohol Industry Association, emphasized the importance of fair industry regulation, acknowledging the need for it but warning against stifling the economy. Ekomoloit stressed that the bill does not adequately address the issue of illicit alcohol, which constitutes a significant portion (65%) of the total alcohol consumed in the market.

“We’re talking about an industry that contributes over 1.1tn shillings in taxes; the value chain cuts across the backbone of the economy. We need to be careful about how we regulate this industry,” remarked Onapito.

In response to the concerns raised, Hon David Bahati commended the industry for highlighting the issue of illicit alcohol and its impact on revenue and standards. However, he urged the association to provide counterproposals to the bill to facilitate an objective resolution.

As part of the affected sectors, Tesfalem Gherahtu, Chairman of the Legit Bar, Entertainment, and Restaurant Owners Association (LEBRA), presented statistics indicating potential job losses and economic repercussions resulting from proposed restrictions on the night economy.

Minister Anite committed to engaging in a dialogue with the Health and Tourism Trade and Industry committees of parliament to thoroughly examine the financial implications of the bill.

“The issue of alcohol has economic, social, and health impacts on society, and we must strike a balance when addressing the implications of the Bill,” added Hon Anite.

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