High taxation force consumers to drink illicit liquor

Police officers lifting a drum full of illicit brew from the river during a security operation along Chania river bank. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

The Alcoholic Beverages Association of Kenya (ABAK) now say the current high taxes imposed by the government are the biggest impediment in the fight against counterfeit products and illicit brews.

Through its chairperson Eric Githua, the association said the war against counterfeits and illicit brews cannot be won if the government does not revise the taxes.

The taxes he said are a big setback for genuine liquor manufacturers who will have to foot 49 per cent of the cost of production.

Githua spoke in Embu County where the association held a sensitisation exercise targeting its members and other stakeholders in the sector.

He said the high cost of production pushes the prices of beer and other alcoholic drinks up.

"These high taxes are passed on to consumers who then opt for cheap and illicit liquor," he said.

According to him, government's decision to increase taxes over time has seen the association lose on revenue since unscrupulous manufacturers evade paying tax.

"Affordability of genuine alcohol is also a challenge with such tough economic times where most consumers resort to second-generation alcohol which is sometimes harmful and substandard," Githua noted.

Githua further observed that the policymakers should be consulting stakeholders in the sector before imposing the taxes to determine the implications such action may have on consumers and the market in general.

Embu County Police Commander David Kabena said for the fight against illicit brew to be successful, KEBS must constantly provide the list of licensed manufacturers to the police for an effective crackdown.

"At our level and position we may not know the registered manufacturers but with such collaborations where we have the information, the fight on counterfeits will be at another level," Kabena said.

His sentiments were echoed by County Commissioner Jack Obuor who said the county security committee had launched a one-month initiative to crack down on counterfeits and illicit brews.

"We want to reduce it by 80 per cent by June when the President comes for Madaraka day celebrations," Kabena said.

Embu bar owners association chairman Abraham Gichovi said operators had a challenge in differentiating between genuine and counterfeit alcoholic drinks noting that such engagements with stakeholders will be beneficial.

He also called on law enforcers to carry out their crackdowns with civility and called for the re-adjustment of bar operating hours to give businesses ample time to operate.

"We also call on ABAK, the government and other stakeholders to come up with affordable alcoholic drinks," he said.

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