Even after the government in 2017 banned the trade on alcohol in sachets and 200 millilitre packages with the aim of minimising reckless consumption, business on illicit alcohol products has persisted.
Illicit alcohol refers to substances which have contents that are harmful to consumers due to substandard and illegal processes employed during the manufacturing.
The illicit alcohol and harmful use of alcohol results in an estimated 3 million deaths (5.3 per cent of total global deaths) annually, and 132.6 million disability-adjusted life years, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Although the data on the effects of alcohol related harms in Uganda is limited, in 2016, the WHO estimated that alcohol killed 2,851 people due to liver damages, made 3,900 perish in road accidents and 1,514 people from cancer resulting from its consumption.
Mr Fred Okiria, the manager of alcohol beverage coordination at the Alcohol Industry Association of Uganda (AIAU), told Daily Monitor on Monday that hundreds of manufacturers are still producing the said alcohol products.
“The biggest challenge we are facing is the illicit alcohol which is affecting our trade and risking the health of consumers. More than 200 companies in the country are manufacturing the products and dumping them in the consumer market,” he said.
Mr Okiria blamed the limited human resource capacity and poor enforcement by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) as the cause of the dangerous trend.
“The products have the wrong physical address, no UNBS mark or Digital Tax Stamp and they are sold at merely 1,000 shillings for a 200mls package unlike standard ones that are sold at 2,000 shillings,” he added.
UNBS which is enforcing the ban, however, says from 2017 to date, they have done massive enforcement and stopped the production of the said drinks by 37 alcohol-manufacturing companies across the country.
Ms Sylvia Kirabo, the UNBS principal public relations officer, said smuggling of the banned products from foreign countries into Uganda by unscrupulous traders is also sustaining the trade in illicit alcohol.
Mr Daniel Arorwa, the market surveillance manager at UNBS during the conference with alcohol manufacturers ahead of enforcement last week in Kampala, asked for more collaboration from the concerned members of the public and the manufacturers.
“We encourage you to give us intelligence information on where illicit alcohol is manufactured and so that we can take strategic action,” he said.
Mr John Paul Musimami, the UNBS deputy executive director, said they plan to start employing the Digital Tracking System to crackdown on the continued trade.