The South African Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba), which represents many of the big players in the legal alcohol industry, has expressed its concern that homemade booze manufacturers may be trying to fill the gap left by the sale of alcohol being banned during the Covid-19 lockdown.
On Friday, police in KwaZulu-Natal busted a ring of illicit alcohol producers and confiscated counterfeit alcohol estimated at more than R500,000 in the Mandawe area on the South Coast of the province.
Police discovered 280 bottles (750ml) of spirits that had been bottled in a house in the area. A further 1,500 litres of pure alcohol, which could have potentially produced a further 3,400 bottles (750ml), were found.
If sold at normal retail price, the total finished products would have a retail value of R500,000, Salba said.
Hundreds of bottles with labels of different commercial alcoholic spirits brands (whisky, brandy, vodka and gin) were discovered together with a stack of unused caps and glue for sealing.
One suspect was arrested at the scene and taken to the Scottburgh Police Station.
Spokesperson for the South African Liquor Brandowners Association, Sibani Mngadi said the industry was concerned about the risk to public health posed by mass scale production and sale of counterfeit liquor during this period of national lockdown.
“Our view is that criminal syndicates have found a gap in the market with prohibition of formal sale of alcoholic beverages. The value of R500,000 is actually a conservative estimate had those counterfeit brands been sold at their normal retail prices. But we know that with current high consumer demand, prices in the illicit market have skyrocketed,” said Mngadi.
He said the industry was committed to work with law enforcement agencies to stop the illicit trade in alcohol.
“The refilling of branded bottles with counterfeit liquid is having a major negative impact on consumer perception of our brands. It is therefore in both our commercial and public health interest to assist the police curbing this criminal activity,” said Mngadi.
Salga is a trade association representing alcohol manufacturers and distributors in SA. Its membership includes major beverage alcohol companies such as Distell, Diageo, Heineken, Pernod Ricard, DGB, KWV and RGBC.
(Edited by Charles Cilliers)