Amendment to Liquor Products Act widely welcomed
By Bekezela Phakathi - Aug 21st 2017, 08:52
The Liquor Products Amendment Bill has been widely welcomed by alcohol industry players who say it will go a long way to curbing illicit trade.
The bill provides a framework for the introduction of beer and other fermented beverages into the Liquor Products Act and consequently bring these products under the control of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
The government is seeking to put in place minimum regulations on the production, packaging and sale of beer. This includes traditional beer, commonly referred to as umqombothi, as well as other fermented beverages. The aim is to reduce the use of contaminants such as battery acid and methylated spirits in some home-brewed blends.
According to the draft legislation, some brewers have been using a loophole in the Liquor Act that allows any product labelled as beer or ale to be manufactured and sold. The current law mainly focuses on liquor products produced from grapes, including wines and spirits, but by and large, ignores other alcoholic beverages such as traditional beer and ale.
The proposed law seeks to ensure those who brew home-made traditional beer meet minimum regulations if the beer is for sale.
Parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, forestry and fisheries, has received various submissions on the amendment bill. In its submission, Distell — the Cape-based producer and marketer of wines, ciders and spirits — expressed its support for the proposed law saying it will bring illicit producers into the regulatory environment. However, Distell said the enforcement infrastructure is still inadequate, both within the department and the prosecution authorities.
"From an industry perspective, our concern has been that until the amendment bill is approved, there are no legal requirements as far as the manufacturing and labelling of beer/ale products are concerned. There is also very little control over the selling of these products," the company said. "This loophole is currently used by traders of illicit products, without the risk of being prosecuted or of the products being confiscated by any authority."
In its submission, Grain SA raised concerns that a section of the bill limits the use of grain sorghum in beer production.
"Grain sorghum can be used to produce beverages for the growing demand for gluten-free beer and other gluten-free products. Furthermore, sorghum is widely used in the global market to produce premium spirits, specifically whisky," said Grain SA’s Dirk Strydom. "By excluding sorghum, these new markets cannot be exploited and will serve as a barrier of entry for agro-processing in SA."
Grain SA was of the view that the act should allow the use of grain sorghum in the production of other beers, and there should be no restriction on using it for only sorghum beer or traditional African beer.
The South African liquor Brand Owners Association, a trade association representing liquor manufacturers and distributors, also backed the proposed law. "We wish to confirm our support of the amendment bill," said CEO Kurt Moore. "However we have identified the need to strengthen the authorities’ hand to enforce law." © BusinessLIVE MMXVII
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