KAMPALA —Nile Breweries Limited together with Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) have declared a nationwide crackdown against the sale and consumption of illicit alcohol.
The development, coming in the wake of the recent death of a dozen people in Arua after drinking an illicit spirit, is aimed at creating public awareness about the dangers of illicit alcohol.
This alcohol, accounting for 65% of the alcohol market in Uganda, is neither registered, nor certified nor does it pay taxes. It is dangerous to the health of the consumers and undermines the economic development of the country.
NBL launched its campaign, called ‘Mind Your Drink’, at Silver Springs Hotel, Kampala, in partnership with the Uganda Alcohol Industry Association (UAIA), Uganda Bureau of Standards (UNBS), Uganda Police and the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).
“Alcohol was originally invented to create happiness. However, there are people that are giving it a bad name by not following the right rules and regulations in producing, selling and consuming it.
There is a strong need to fight against illegal alcohol because of its adverse effects on the consumers’ health, society and the economy,’’ said Onapito Ekomoloit, the Chairman of the UAIA and also Legal and Corporate Affairs Director NBL.
This week medical authorities in Arua confirmed an unfortunate incident in West Nile in which 12 people died after consuming a locally manufactured gin that was apparently not certified by UNBS.
“Such deaths have happened over the years and make this campaign timely. It calls for all of us to join the fight against this unscrupulous trade,” said Onapito.
Despite the government banning sachet spirits in June 2019, as one way of eliminating unregulated alcohol from the market, Uganda remains a hotspot for its trade and consumption.
The illicit alcoholic drinks are now packaged in PET bottles, recycled mineral water bottles, other types of packaging and sold openly countrywide.
According to the 2021 Euromonitor International report, illicit alcohol consumption increased to 64.7% in Uganda.
The harsh economic conditions and the down-trading impact of Covid-19 have resulted in the formal beer industry losing market share down to 35.5%, raising concerns over government tax revenues, grain farmers’ market and the licit industry jobs.
NBL recommends a multi-sectoral approach in order to effectively combat the spread of illicit alcohol in Uganda.
“Engaging different stakeholders in this campaign will strengthen the message we want to send out on dangers of illicit alcohol, especially to the health of consumers,” said Clare Asiimwe, the Sustainability Manager at NBL said while presenting the report on illicit alcohol.
“It is an excellent opportunity for us to reduce both trade and consumption of illicit alcohol and its effects on Ugandan jobs and livelihoods,” she said.
Since its establishment in 2006, Uganda Alcohol Industry Association has played a role in bringing together the alcoholic beverage producers in Uganda to promote responsible consumption and marketing of alcoholic beverages.
“As UAIA, our main focus has always been on promoting responsible drinking and protecting the alcohol industry from unfair competition. We believe that this campaign will encourage people to think about themselves and those closest to them and make the right decision to never purchase or consume illicit alcoholic beverages, “said M.S Reddy, the Treasurer of UAIA.
“We call upon all stakeholders to join the fight in their different capacities to completely defeat this illegal trade,” he said.
Following a dialogue by key stakeholders to formulate actions on how to fight illicit alcohol collectively, NBL and all the partners will be running awareness messages under the ‘Mind Your Drink’ banner.