An Indian state is fast running out of beer due to the ongoing election
- Bars and wine shops in Uttar Pradesh are fast running out beer on the shelves.
- Approvals for new labels from the state's excise department have been delayed due to the election.
- Not just that bottles with new labels have been stalled, over 100,000 litres of expired beer were destroyed in April.
The ongoing election for the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India's Parliament, has had an unintended consequence. The country's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, is fast running out of beer. Ironically, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of alcohol drinkers in the country.
In January 2019, chief minister Yogi Adityanath imposed a 0.5% cess on alcohol to fund the state's 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 excise department before releasing the product into the market.
"Every April, new policy gets into force. Every time you get into it, there is a delay of about a month because they re-register all the labels. The files go up and down. It's an annual process which is really painful. But everybody knows about it, so they keep extra stock for these incidences. This year that process has got further delayed," the owner of a renowned national chain of bars told Business Insider on the condition of anonymity.
High UP in the air
The approval process is common to every state in India, but the delay is the longest in Uttar Pradesh (UP), according to him.
In UP, the delay 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 today, very few brands are available, and most of them strong beers.
This is an additional blow for bar owners because most people in India who drink at bars prefer milder beers. "Sales dropped by nearly 40% in April 2019, compared to March," the owner of the beer chain said.
Sales dropped by nearly 40% in April 2019, compared to March.
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 (cow protection) tax is ₹5 per bottle of beer. It is quite severe considering beer is 95% water," he added. In India, beer consumed outside home is three and a half times more than the beer consumed at home.
What is worse for suppliers in the state, nearly 100,ooo litres of expired beer was destroyed in April. The stock was worth ₹3 crore (about $440,000). "Beer is the only perishable liquor. By law, you have to quarantine it and the excise guys 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.
If you are in UP, you are likely to get more stressed finding the beer of your choice before you get happy high.
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