Allow phased opening of the alcohol industry, online sales: CIBAC

Liquor manufacturing association CIBAC

New Delhi

Liquor manufacturing association CIBAC has urged Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal to allow phased opening of the alcoholic beverages industry which is facing financial stress and job losses due to the lockdown.

In a letter to the commerce minister, the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) said since the lockdown was ordered to tackle the coronavirus crisis, all wholesale and retail trade has been closed.

"We seek an urgent phase-wise opening of the alcoholic beverage industry in conformity with COVID-19 prevention guidelines," it said, adding trucks are stranded, distribution warehouses are locked and retail shops are sitting on unsold stock.

"The industry which contributes almost Rs 2-lakh crores by way of various taxes, sustains the livelihood of nearly 40 lakh farmers, and employs nearly 20 lakh people, directly and indirectly, is in dire straits," CIABC Director-General Vinod Giri said.

He also demanded extension of excise year for three months till June 30 and online sale of liquor.

"What has compounded the problems for the alcoholic beverage industry is the fact that excise policy for many states come to an end on March 31. Prior to that date, there are several statutory requirements that ought to be met by companies for them to keep the continuity of operations," he said.

He added that a prolonged shutdown of the industry will not only have a huge economic cost on companies but may also force lakhs of workers into joblessness.

"Shops should be asked to enroll for home delivery through online applications. The government may charge a fee, this being an addition to a license. Each qualifying the shop should be given 3-4 movement passes for the home delivery personnel.

"Customers may place an order online on over the phone, along with an ID proof establishing age. The government may limit the amount of liquor delivered or frequency of delivery as it deems fit," he said.

The girl further said that since social distancing will be the new normal going forward, the government should consider institutionalizing home delivery as a separate channel administered online.

"The governments can even consider setting up their own portals for facilitating home deliveries. It can rope in food delivery aggregators to do so," he added.