Proposed law on drinks packaging is unrealistic and unnecessary, alcohol manufacturers says

The Alcohol Beverage Association of Kenya (ABAK) is concerned about a private member’s Bill by Wundanyi MP Danson Mwakuwona seeking to amend the Alcohol Drinks Control Act of 2010.

The Bill proposes to limit packaging of alcoholic products in containers of 750 milliliters or more, guided by the rationale that this would reduce the misuse of alcohol. The Bill also proposes that consumers be forced to pay a cash deposit whenever they intend to purchase alcoholic drinks packed in glass containers. 

We believe this is an outrageous, retrogressive proposal that has no place in our developing economy today and we are opposed to the proposals in the Bill for the following reasons:

1.    The proposed law is discriminatory to a majority of the alcohol beverage consumers who cannot afford alcohol packaged in 750ml containers, which sell at higher prices and are therefore inaccessible to those who currently buy in smaller containers. Legally prescribing that consumers buy more than they can consume is not only encouraging irresponsible drinking but is also counterproductive in the fight against illicit alcohol consumption (due to unaffordability) which the government has been combating for many years.

2.    Elimination of the option to sell alcohol packed in smaller packages would undoubtedly force those who cannot affordable quality alcoholic beverages sold in larger packaging to seek illicit and unhealthy alternatives, such as the purchase of alcohol in bulk and sharing it into smaller containers, or consuming contraband alcohol from neighbouring countries.

3.    The ADCA 2010 law already has mechanisms in place to prevent underage access to alcoholic beverages. Enforcement is essential to ensure there is no alcohol sold or served to minors.

4.    Both alcohol and glass manufacturers have made significant investments in 250ml, 300ml, 440ml and 500ml packaging. These investments will be rendered untenable if the Bill is passed, with billions of shillings at risk, and the knock-on effect will be on employment in both the glass manufacturing and alcohol making and packaging sectors. There will be huge cost implications for manufacturers in rejigging production lines (taking many years) meaning direct job losses in manufacturing, one of Kenya’s economic growth pillars.

5.    The imposition of a deposit requirement on glass containers will force manufacturers to pack alcoholic beverages in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. PET packaging has an extremely negative impact on the environment and human health since the material is non-biodegradable. Forcing the industry to use PETs will undermine all the gallant efforts that have gone into the recycling of PETs.

6.    Alcohol manufacturers have mechanisms to collect returnable glass from the market. Requesting for deposit on the same unduly burdens manufacturers with unnecessarily duplicative financial and administrative processes. Furthermore, glass disposal our industry has created a significant value chain where glass manufacturers collect, crash, and recycle cullet (glass prepared for remelting). This Bill now puts these jobs at great risk and passing this piece of law would mean loss of thousands of value chain jobs in production, distribution, and sale of alcoholic products in Kenya.

This proposed Bill is an unfortunate effort which, if passed into law, will cripple an industry already reeling from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Bill will also not yield the claimed benefits of safeguarding underage drinking or addressing the intended environmental consequences, which are being addressed by ABAK and other manufacturers in Kenya. ABAK therefore requests the National Assembly to reject the Bill and has made submissions to the Committee on Administration and National Security on the same.

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