THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Even the greatest floods since 1924 seem not to have dampened the average Malayali tippler’s penchant for a peg or two after sundown. At least, not to the extent where the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco) is crying bankruptcy.
Bevco’s liquor sales figures for August — the month of the floods — surprisingly, show an increase over July even though the state government-owned liquor sales monopoly definitely did not manage to rake in as much as it did in August 2017.
August sales of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL — brandy, whisky, rum, gin, wine and vodka, but excluding beer) stood at 19.34 lakh cases (one case equals twelve 750 ml bottles) while in July, Bevco had managed to sell only a little over 17.07 lakh cases. Beer sales also shot up in August as against July from 6.83 lakh cases to 8.71 lakh cases.
But then, compared to August 2017, sales in August 2018 have taken a beating, courtesy the floods. Overall IMFL sales had stood at 21.36 lakh cases in August 2017 which, as mentioned earlier, slipped to 19.34 lakh cases this time. Likewise, Bevco had managed to sell 10.48 lakh cases of beer in August 2017, which too witnessed a dip.
Bevco managing director Sparjan Kumar attributed the increase in sales in August over July this year to the Onam sales and the twin hikes in taxes this year. “Sales were badly affected in five districts due to the floods particularly between August 15 and 19. The increase in sales over July is due to the normal increase during Onam sales and the tax hikes. Nonetheless, Onam sales were affected when you compare with the 2017 Onam season,” he said.
In February, the government had decided to up the sale tax of IMFL brands costing up to `400 to 200 per cent and brands costing above `400 to 210 per cent. The sales tax was, respectively, 125 per cent and 135 per cent. The tax on beer went up from 70 per cent to 100 per cent. The mid-August hike in excise duty by 0.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent is for a period of 100 days and meant to mobilise an additional revenue of `230 crore for flood relief.
In mid-August, one-third of Bevco outlets were badly hit by the floods and although most are open now, sale is sluggish.Although final figures are yet to be out, Bevco has pegged its own losses due to the floods at `21-25 crore.