K.P.M. Basheer

On Christmas eve, Beverages Corporation sold liquor worth Rs.28 crore

Christmas sale sets all-time record

Bevco’s own net profit will be Rs.80 crore

KOCHI: Liquor sales by the Kerala State Beverages Corporation, the State-run liquor trading monopoly, is set to cross Rs.5,300 crore this financial year, indicating a massive jump in liquor consumption in tiny Kerala with a resident population of about three crore.

Together with supplies from other sources, such as legal and illegal imports from other States, the total expenditure of the Malayalis on liquor in 2009-10 would go well beyond Rs.6,000 crore. This would mean a per capita consumption of Rs.2,000 worth of liquor.

According to a rough estimate, if women - the huge majority of whom do not drink - and men under age 18 are excluded, this would mean an estimated per capita expenditure of around Rs.6,000 by an adult male, which is much more than the per capita annual income of a sizeable chunk of Indian population.

“Going by the current trend in liquor consumption, we hope to sell Rs.5,300 crore worth of liquor this financial year,” says N. Shanker Reddy, managing director of Bevco. Last year, Bevco sold Rs.4,631 crore worth of liquor.

It has consistently kept a double-digit year-on-year hike in sales in the recent past. During the eight months from April to November this year, it sold liquor for Rs.3,532 crore, up from Rs.3,000 crore during the same period last year.

On the eve of Christmas, Bevco’s 337 shops across the State sold Rs.28 crore worth of liquor, thus setting an all-time record of Christmas sales. This is up from last year’s Christmas-eve sale of roughly Rs.22 crore. However, this year’s top sale figure was during the Onam celebration: on one single day, Bevco sold liquor worth Rs.34 crore. Onam and Christmas are the peak selling occasions for Bevco, which is one of the major contributors to the exchequer.

To run its affairs, the government is heavily dependent on liquor sale. Last year, Bevco paid Rs.3,621 crore in taxes and duties to the State government. This year, Mr. Reddy hopes, the share will go past Rs.4,000 crore. Bevco’s own net profit would be Rs.80 crore.

Among the districts, Ernakulam is the largest buyer of liquor. Mr. Reddy pointed out that the current average daily sale by an outlet was Rs.2.75 lakh.

Rum continues to be the favourite drink of Keralites, about 60 per cent of the Bevco turnover comes from rum. Brandy comes next, with 32 per cent. The consumer pays more than five times the actual cost of liquor to Bevco because of the heavy excise duty, sales tax and other charges. Of every Rs.100 a customer pays, liquor maker’s share is only Rs.16.

As part of its corporate social responsibility, Bevco had a year before proposed to set up a super specialty hospital and a rehabilitation centre for alcoholics. But, the government is still sitting on it.

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