Maharashtra faces sharp decline in alcohol consumption in April-June

"Five beers kept in a bucket.">

The coronavirus has impacted the country in enough ways and the liquor industry is no exception. Maharashtra has seen a sharp decline in alcohol consumption in the months of April, May, and June.

According to the stats collected by the state’s Excise Department, the alcohol consumption was just 9.89 crore bl this year as compared to the 24.08 crore bulk litres (bl) consumed in April-June 2019. The alcohol consumption dropped down 59 percent as compared to the consumption level for the same period last year and the recovery of this may take some time.

In the months of May and June due to the lockdown resulting in lakhs of workers returning home and no home deliveries of liquor allowed, the country liquor sales went down by 47 percent in May and 15 percent in June as compared to last year.

The liquor shops were shut across the country in the month of May and therefore, the liquor sales were not permitted. However, on 4th May, the state government permitted liquor retail in non-hotspot zones, and later red zones were also given permission. Home delivery of liquor (IMFL and beer) was also allowed in order to avoid overcrowding at liquor shops.

“The pandemic struck at the worst possible time for the beer industry. Beer sales are usually the highest in the February-June period,” said Umap. When compared to 2019, beer sales were down 62 percent in May and 56 percent in June. For the other alcohol spirits, the sales in the month of May were down 35 percent as compared to 2019, but this breach had been reduced to 8 percent by end-June.

“The decision to permit home deliveries has benefitted this segment the most,” an excise official said. As on July 7, of the 29.94 lakh orders of liquor home-delivered, most were IMFLs. “But even in this segment, the low-prices brands were suffering. Home deliveries and e-commerce options have suited the premium segment far more,” Chawla said.

But, in the near future, the industry experts are hopeful that the beer and IMFL segment will definitely raise the market share. The Maharashtra government is also supporting it and being realistic as to not further increasing taxes on liquor, unlike some other states.

In Maharashtra, one needs a valid liquor permit to even drink at home and have to be of 25 years of age. The Excise department’s stats show that since the retail liquor sales were resumed in the month of May, 1,43,656 people applied for a liquor permit, out of which 1,38,497 applications got approved and another 663 are pending. Concluding, only 15,488 had obtained liquor permits in 2019-20.