Lucknow May 16 : The five per cent ‘cow protection’ cess imposed by the Yogi Adityanath government on alcohol and the ongoing Lok Sabha elections have resulted in unintended consequence –shortage of popular brands of beer in the market.
Uttar Pradesh being the biggest market of beer is fast running out of stock of the beverage.
The state government in January had announced to impose 5 per cent cess on alcohol to fund the cow protection programme. Every time there is a change in taxation, the retail price changes and so does the label on the product. Every brand has to get an approval for these changes from the state’s excise department before releasing the product into the market.
"Every April, new policy comes into force. Every time you get into it, there is a delay of about a month because they re-register all the labels. The bureaucratic procedure is long and cumbersome as the files are pushed at different levels. It's an annual process and the distillery owners and liquor vendors know about it, so they keep extra stock for these situations. This year that process has got further delayed due to Lok Sabha elections," owner of a beer bar said.
“The approval process is common to every state in India, but the delay is the longest in UP. The delay in the state has been thrice as long this time as the excise department officials were busy with election duties, delaying approvals on new labels. So, if you walk into a bar or a wine shop anywhere in Uttar Pradesh these days, very few brands are available and sales have dropped by nearly 40 per cent in April 2019, compared to March," he said.
This is a cumulative effect of a price hike, supply crunch in beer as a whole, and the non-availability of mild beer brands. "The new Gau Raksha cess is Rs 5 per bottle of beer. It is quite severe considering beer is 95 percent water," he added. In India, beer at a bar costs three-and-a-half times more.
What is worse for suppliers in the state, nearly one lakh liters of expired beer worth Rs 3 crore was destroyed in April this year. "Beer is the only perishable liquor. By law, you have to quarantine it and the excise department officers come and destroy it," he added.
The wait to bring new stocks to shelves could be longer as excise officials will only get back to their usual drill after the election, the results of which will be announced on May 23. (UNI)