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EABL calm over local Kenyan brews

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 1- East African Breweries Limited (EABL) has said it is not threatened by the proposed move to legalise the production and consumption of local brews in the country.

Director of Corporate Affairs Ken Kariuki told Capital Business that the enactment of the Alcohol Drinks Control Bill that seeks to reduce the excessive consumption of alcohol and the consequences associated with it would not have any significant impact on their business or profit margins.

“We have studied that situation quite carefully, we have gone through our numbers, we have gone through the scenarios and we see minimal impact as far as that is concerned,” he said.

“We don’t have a problem with anyone joining our industry. We welcome competition,” he added.

He argued that a section of Kenyans remain quality conscience and that EABL was better placed to provide that quality guarantee that they are looking for.

“As a business, we are already giving consumers at the low end an alternative so we are not worried that our business will go away because we have Senator Keg that retails at Sh20,” he maintained.

Mr Kariuki said that while the firm supports various aspects of the Bill which is being sponsored by Naivasha Member of Parliament John Mututho, they were concerned that it would lead to the mushrooming of chang’aa (local brew) ‘dens’ which would be disastrous to consumers’ health.

“We think that the recommendations that have been put in the draft are reasonable and make a lot of sense in trying to reduce harm in society. On that we are on the same page; there are just one or two elements that we have noted especially the intent to repeal the Chang’aa Prohibition Act,” he said.

The National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NACADA) Authority is however of the view that sanctioning the production of these liquors would enable many Kenyans to access quality drinks at affordable prices.

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Such a move would also promote local investment as many traders would not have to import the products some of which are of lower quality that than the local brews, the Authority reckons.

The liquor market in Kenya is estimated to be worth Sh42 billion with the mainstream sector accounting for about 60 percent and the illicit liquor market contributing for the remainder.

There are currently three local breweries in Kenya and the market is also served by several imported brands.

Mr Kariuki added that EABL’s opposition to the enactment of the Bill was not necessarily driven by fear of competition but the inherent risks posed by the consumption of ‘dangerous adulterated’ brews.

He proposed that sections of the Bill be amended to legalise only the production and consumption of traditional legitimate brews such as ‘Muratina’, ‘Kaluvu’, ‘Mnazi’ and ‘Busaa.’

“Chang’aa is not a traditional drink. Chang’aa is a distillate. For me anything that is distillate requires the necessary apparatus and machinery to be able to distil and there are hygiene considerations that need to come into place as well,” he said while pointing to the deaths and loss of eye sights that has in the past befallen hundreds in victims across the country.

Should the government go ahead and implement the law, Mr Kariuki proposed that it should also put in place mechanisms that would ensure that brewers comply with the law and meet the requisite standards when producing those drinks.

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