It's party time for tipplers in God's own country

A slew of measures will make buying alcohol easier in Kerala

Liquor-cartoon-magesh-ns Illustration: Magesh N.S.

In a first, the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco) outlets and Consumerfed outlets have started stocking up Foreign-Made Foreign Liquor (FMFL) along with branded high-end Indian-Made Foreign Liquor. The outlets are also being revamped with modern facilities, including self-service counters.

There is more good news. One may also not need to stand in long queues as all the Bevco and Consumerfed outlets are going to have liquor vending machines attached to it. The government may also extend the closing time of bars to 11.50pm from the current deadline of 11pm.

“A slew of measures will make buying alcohol easier in Kerala. We are focusing on both quality and availability of the stock,” said a Bevco official.

Regarding the vending machines outside Bevco, he said that it will reduce the queues before the outlets to a great extent. “We decided to go for it as the High Court raised the issue and had asked the government to be more consumer friendly,” he said.

He said that the decision to sell FMFL from Bevco outlets was made as several foreign brands were being sold in the state stealthily. “Many foreign brands were being sold even during the height of prohibition. The state exchequer was losing out a huge amount even while the sale was on. Hence the decision,” he explained.

He said that the import duty on FMFL has been fixed at 78 per cent and that of wine at 25 per cent. At present, the import duty on FMFL is 150 per cent.

Bevco also plans to market foreign beer brands. “We will market foreign beers, too. But only after assessing the sale of FMFL,” he said.

But, there is some bad news, too, as the prices of liquor may go up slightly as the finance department has decided to hike the sales tax of hard drinks and beer. “The prices may increase between Rs 10 and 20 per bottle,” the official said.

When asked whether FMFL will elbow out IMFL, he said it will not happen. “There will be a huge price difference between the FMFL and IMFL. Apart from a high import duty, FMFL will be levied a special fee under the Abkari Act,'' he said.

The state has one of the highest per capita alcohol consumption in the country—eight litres per person per year while the national average is around six litres.