64.5% of alcohol on market is illegal - report

What you need to know:

According to the Euromonitor Illicit Alcohol Trade report, only 35.5 percent of alcohol, which translates to 543,331 litres, are legal 

More than half of alcoholic drinks on the Ugandan market are illegal with some not fit for consumption, according to Uganda Alcohol Industry Association. 

In details presented in the Euromonitor Illicit Alcohol Trade report at the launch of the Mind Your Drink campaign in Kampala yesterday, it was revealed that at least 64.5 percent of alcoholic drinks on the market are illegal and lack standards that are fit for consumption. 

The 64.5 percent, the report notes, translates into at least 987,905 litres of the total industry consumption size of 1.53 million litres that was consumed between 2017 and 2020. 

The report captures industry activity and tax losses between 2017 and 2020 due to an expanding illicit alcohol market, which is estimated to be growing at an average of 9.1 percent annually. 

The report also noted that 45.4 percent of consumed illicit beverages are homemade, popularly known as waragi, which presents a larger danger on human health, especially in rural areas. 

At least 266,044 litres of illicit beverages, the report notes, are counterfeits, while 36,153 litres are smuggled into the country. 

The value of  illicit alcoholic drinks, according to the report, is worth $1.91b (Shs7.25 trillion), for which it is estimated that government lost an average of $458m (Shs17.3b) in taxable revenue between 2017 and 2020. 

Consumption of illicit alcohol has been growing with a number fatal cases reported in the last 10 years. 

Therefore, members of the Uganda Alcohol Industry Association announced in Kampala yesterday that they had started a campaign in which they will dialogue with different stakeholders to formulate actions on how to fight illicit alcohol consumption. 

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Ms Claire Asiimwe, the Nile Breweries sustainability manager, said trade in illicit alcohol has been encouraged because of its low pricing model, insufficient law enforcement, corruption and its wide availability across informal channels.

Therefore, she said, there was need to come up with a multi-sectoral approach that would effectively combat the continued growth of illicit alcoholic drinks on the market. 

The Euromonitor Illicit Alcohol Trade report estimates that out of 1.53 million litres that were consumed between 2017 and 2020, only 35.5 percent, which translates to 543,331 litres, were legal. 

Mr Onapito Ekomoloit, the Uganda Alcohol Industry Association chairman, said the biggest production of illicit alcoholic drinks mainly happens in the countryside, noting that it was high time government formulates a licensing and standardisation regime for such products, which would require producers to improve to required standards.

Unregulated alcohol        

According to Mr Ekomoloit, despite government banning sachet spirits in 2019, as a way to eliminate unregulated alcohol from the market, Uganda remains a hotspot for trade and consumption of illicit alcohol since manufacturers have now shifted to packaging such drinks in pet bottles, recycled mineral water bottles and other types of packaging that are sold openly countrywide. 

Now that government banned the sale of alcohol in sachets, producers have resorted to packaging such it in pet bottles. Photo | file