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Open up for takeaways, liquor traders urge govt

MBONGENI MGUNI
Open up for takeaways, liquor traders urge govt PIC. THALEFANG CHARLES
Liquor traders are proposing that sales after the Coronavirus restrictions end, proceed by way of takeaways and also include online orders, as a way of balancing health concerns and the revival of the hard hit sector, Mmegi has established.

Liquor sales were banned on March 28 as part of government’s Coronavirus response, after health experts noted that alcohol was a major threat to social distancing protocols and general public compliance.

While sales were initially banned for 30 days, Statutory Instrument 61 issued on April 2 banned alcohol sales for the duration of the six-month Public State of Emergency. The arrangement means alcohol sales are suspended for six months unless President Mokgweetsi Masisi issues another Statutory Instrument allowing resumption of sales. 

Information reaching MmegiOnline this week indicates that liquor traders recently submitted a proposal to the Investment, Trade and Industry Ministry suggesting that after the lockdown, liquor sales proceed strictly by way of “off-consumptions sales” known more commonly as takeaways.

Presently, off-consumption outlets include bottle stores and liquor depots, but traders are also proposing a special dispensation where bars could be allowed to operate strictly as off-consumption outlets subject to strict social distancing protocols.

Online sales could also be an avenue for liquor trade while a proposal has also been made for operating hours for the period after the lockdown.

Liquor traders expressed support for government’s response to the Coronavirus, saying they value the consultation and want to be a key partner in helping government protect the wellbeing of the society. Under their organization, the Botswana Alcohol Industry Association (BAIA), the traders stressed that they were in agreement with government that the responsible consumption of alcohol should only be allowed “under very strict conditions” sensitive to

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the requirements of government’s strategy to contain the pandemic.

In a virtual press conference on Wednesday, Investment, Trade and Industry Minister, Peggy Serame confirmed receipt of the Association’s proposal and said it would be considered when government makes decisions on easing trade restrictions across the board. She added that some liquor traders had already begun accessing the various relief packages government has made available to the economy.

BAIA chairperson, Mothusi Molokomme told MmegiOnline that liquor traders were seeking a balance between resuming sales on a restricted basis and adhering to health protocols that prevent the spread of the virus. 

“We are very supportive of what government is doing in responding to the pandemic and are equally concerned about social distancing, on-premise consumption and other effects,” he said.

“You cannot just open up the trade and people drink on the premises. We are proposing that when we reopen, we do so in a restricted way, with owners practicing proper distancing, hygiene for workers and consumers, even with security provided by owners to ensure that. 

“We are saying when government opens up for others, they consider opening up for liquor trade in this way.”

Kgalagadi Beverages Limited, the country’s leading liquor producers, recently warned that the Coronavirus would impact its revenues going forward, although “the business is expected to survive the impact”. KBL said the impact would be temporary.

The company sold 153.5 million litres of alcoholic beverages in 2019, six percent higher than the volumes in 2018.



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