CONSUMER GOODS COUNCIL OF SOUTH AFRICA CONCERNED ABOUT REDUCED TRADING HOURS FOR LIQUOR TRADERS AS ANNOUNCED BY THE GOVERNMENT

The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA), the Liquor Traders Association of South Africa (LTASA) and their respective retail members have noted the decision by the Government to reimpose restrictions on the sale of alcohol for off-site consumption, as part of measures to control the further spread of Covid-19. These restrictions, which have taken immediate effect, are a reversal of the concession given to liquor retailers to sell liquor products for off-site consumption from Monday to Sunday.

While we acknowledge the broader aim of the restrictions announced by President Ramaphosa, we are nevertheless concerned with the inconsistent approach by government for liquor traders. Retailers and national grocery stores with liquor licences feel the restrictions which only affects off-site liquor traders are both discriminatory and unfair, if not uncompetitive. We, therefore, call government to review the restrictions in January 2021 following the festive season.

Retailers with liquor licences are some of the largest employers in South Africa and a significant contributor to the fiscus through taxes. The latest restrictions, coming at a time when they were beginning to recover from the previous hard lockdowns under which liquor sales were prohibited, could potentially lead to job losses and financial losses, particularly for franchise operators and SMEs, the majority of which are black owned.

We are disappointed that despite the co-operation and strict compliance to safety protocols by industry, which has been so outstandingly apparent since the lockdown was first introduced in March 2020, that government without consultation and providing rationale for its decision, restricted the sale of liquor products for off-site consumption. We are therefore seeking the reasons which informed this decision, which we believe is not only economically irrational, but could also have unintended consequence of benefiting those who practice in illicit trade of such products. This was prevalent during the previous lockdowns when the sale of liquor was prohibited.

Retailers have been balancing the twin objectives of preventing the spread of the virus and ensuring responsible trading by among other measures, adopting stringent hygiene and workplace control measures across their stores, manufacturing plants and supply chains.  They have also been at the vanguard of implementing social distancing – not just for employees but very importantly for customers entering stores. These include stringent queue control, restrictions on the number of people in stores at any given time, social distancing in queues outside stores, and insisting on the compulsory use of facemasks or visors.

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