Zambian Breweries backs Govt crackdown on alcohol abuse
President Edgar Chagwa Lungu and Zambian Breweries Country Director Annabelle Degroot during the opening of company’s’ new US$33 million malting plant at the Lusaka South Multi-Facility Economic Zone last month
Zambian Breweries has come out strongly in support of the government’s moves to stamp out alcohol abuse and ensure people are responsible when drinking.
The company warmly welcomed President Edgar Lungu’s recent directive in first session of the 12th National Assembly calling for relevant ministries to ensure effective management of the production and sale of alcohol.
Speaking during the official commissioning of Zambian Breweries’ US$33 million malting plant at the Lusaka South Multi-Facility Economic Zone (MFEZ) by the President on Friday (March 31), country director Annabelle Degroot said: “As Zambian Breweries, we cannot hide the fact that we are an alcohol producing company and that we must take a responsible approach to alcohol sales and consumption in our beautiful country. Under-age drinking, drink driving and other forms of alcohol abuse are of enormous concern to me personally, my board, management, and all of us at Zambian Breweries.
In explaining what the company was doing to address the issue, Mrs Degroot told dignitaries: “We spend significant time and resources investing in trying to create a more responsible approach to alcohol consumption among all of our consumers.”
As a group, AB InBev, of which Zambian Breweries is a subsidiary, is very focussed on a future that involves lower or no alcohol by volume (ABV) beers in the future. The current average alcohol content of Zambian Breweries beers is 5 percent and it is seeking to reduce that further over time, she explained.
However, the company’s efforts and vision were being undermined by the onslaught of cheap illicit spirits in Zambia, she said.
“Highly organised local manufacturers, unscrupulous traders and smugglers of tujilijili, junta and the like, all reinforced by complicit officials turning a blind eye, corruption and ambivalence are driving a very worrying pattern for our nation.”
“Our government had the foresight to ban tujilili sachets a few years ago, but tujilijili is now fully back on the market in larger 200ml bottles known as junta. The rate at which it is growing is alarming. To make matters worse, these products have misleading names that make the consumer believe they will be a winner in life by consuming them. This is very misleading messaging indeed.”
To put it in perspective, consumers can buy one Mosi for K7 with an alcohol content of 4.5 percent. Alternatively they can buy a 200ml bottle of junta for K5 with an ABV of 43 percent.
“Alcohol at 43 percent has major implication for the health and related social ills for consumers and places huge pressure on the medical and family support systems in Zambia. In addition, these manufactures are not paying tax. This means that we as Zambian Breweries – and the government – are being hampered in our shared goal of providing the people of Zambia with high-quality, consistent, properly labelled, affordable beverages in a regulated manner and with moderate and low-alcohol by volume levels. A goal that also generates tax revenue and protects the population from the enormous health and social damage caused by these products,” Mrs Degroot told the President and assembled guests as she re-emphasised that Zambian Breweries took its responsibility towards responsible alcohol consumption very seriously and asked for help and urged government to respond to the threat of junta in a decisive and quick manner.
“I am happy to state that the government, particularly through the ministries of finance, commerce and agriculture, has been a true partner. We have locked arms with your ministers and this plant is an embodiment of your government’s willingness to work with us on multiple fronts.,” she concluded.