Fearing job losses and financial difficulties in the alcoholic beverages industry due to the COVID-19 lockdown, liquor manufacturing association CIABC has urged Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal to allow phase-wise opening of the sector.
The Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) has written to the commerce minister in this regard, saying all wholesale and retail trade have been closed since the nationwide lockdown was ordered.
“We seek an urgent phase-wise opening of the alcoholic beverage industry in conformity with COVID-19 prevention guidelines,” the letter said, adding that trucks are stranded, distribution warehouses are locked with stock and retail shops are sitting on unsold stock.
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“The industry which contributes almost ₹2 lakh crore by way of various taxes, sustains livelihood of nearly 40 lakh farmers, and employs nearly 20 lakh people directly and indirectly is in dire straits,” said CIABC Director General Vinod Giri. He also demanded extension of excise year for three months till June 30 and online sale of liquor.
“What has compounded the problems for 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 continuity of operations,” he said.
He added that a prolonged shut down of industry will not only have a huge economic cost on companies, it may also force lakhs of workers into joblessness.
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“Shops should be asked to enrol for home delivery through online applications. Government may charge a fee, this being an addition to license. Each qualifying shop should be given three-four movement passes for home delivery personnel. Customers may place order online on over phone, along with an ID proof establishing age. Government may limit amount of liquor delivered or frequency of delivery as it deems fit,” he noted.
Giri said that since social distancing will be new normal going forward, the government should consider institutionalising 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.
(With inputs from agencies)