K.P.M. Basheer

KOCHI: Blame it on the unusually hot summer that arrived early this year — there is heavy shortage of beer in Kerala. Many bars across the State now display the sign ‘No beer' and several others tell their patrons: “Only one bottle per person, sir.” They apologetically tell the customers that they are not getting sufficient supplies from the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco), the government-owned monopoly distributor of liquor.

“There has been a heavy rise in demand for beer this summer, but the three (private) breweries in the State are unable to meet the demand,” says Bevco managing director N. Shanker Reddy. Bevco is scurrying to get extra supplies from other States. But there is a problem: many States face the same problem — demand overwhelms supply.

Mr. Reddy pointed out that there has been a 40 per cent increase in the demand for beer this year. For instance, in March last, Bevco sold 8.64 lakh cases (12 bottles to each case) of beer. But demand this March shot up to 12.56 lakh cases. The breweries, despite raising their production by 20 per cent by putting their staff to overtime work, could not keep pace. United Breweries' brewery at Palakkad stepped up its production of Kingfisher beer to half a million cases a month, but this beer which has a 78 per cent market share, is still under short supply at many bars. The unusually high temperature this summer drove up the demand for beer. The temperature started rising by the end of January and the demand for beer kept pace with the rise in temperature.