Affordability issues see illegal liquor industry flourish

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Pointing out that Sri Lanka was witnessing a sharp increase in illegally-produced and smuggled liquor, owing to issues with affordability, a senior businessman warned of dire consequences to human life.

 “It is disheartening to note that despite our many warnings the illegal toddy industry continues to thrive and flourish,” said Chairman of listed conglomerate, Melstacorp – the holding company of Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka (DCSL) – and Periceyl (Pvt) Ltd., Harry Jayawardena.

Artificial toddy is produced from various toxic substances making it unfit for human consumption, in many cases resulting in blindness and other serious complications, sometimes even death, he said. 

“People are drinking artificial toddy because of the big price difference, but they are not aware that they are drinking poison,” he said.

This industry is run by a few unscrupulous individuals and is prevalent throughout the Island, he said.

“Over the years we have done our best to alert the authorities that unethically prepared, duplicated, adulterated and artificial toddy is on the rise. However, it has proved fruitless, as when one operation is shut down, it reopens under another name,” he said.

The damaging effect of adulterated toddy will cause harm to innocent consumers and pose a greater burden to the healthcare system of the country. Unfortunately, authorities continue to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to such illegal practices, he said.

“The current economic crisis has weakened the purchasing power of consumers. At the same time, we have noted a drastic increase in the price of locally produced ethanol, subsequent to the total ban on importation. This is in addition to the prevailing excessive taxes and levies on legal alcohol products,” he said.

These trends continue to result in shrinking sales of legally produced tax-paid alcohol products which are now a luxury to most consumers, he said.

The sharp increase has led to an increase in illegal liquor usage in the country, he said.

Illicit alcohol poses substantial health, economic and social cost to society in general and in particular to users. Moreover, it causes loss of State revenue, he said.

According to him, Policy makers should reassess the taxes and levies on legal alcohol and implement a programme that achieves a gradual reduction of illicit liquor consumption.

By Mario Andree