After removing sachets, further clean up of hard drinks not easy

19Mar 2022
The Guardian
After removing sachets, further clean up of hard drinks not easy

UNEASE is being reported from the Tanzania Distilleries Ltd (TDL), operating under the Tanzania Breweries Ltd (TBL) as to the flow of hard drinks from all sorts of sources especially on border points.

A marketing official for TBL said the most significant amounts are peddled into the southern zone, then the northern zone, the Southern Highlands  and finally the Lake Zone, thus making it hard for TDL to sell its products – and ostensibly, for the government to obtain revenues. Officials took note of the new clean up demand but will not find it easy, either in terms of quality or easier issues like packaging or certification.

When one talks about hard drinks at the popular level, the most visible TDL product is Konyagi, and at an earlier period when the only possible competitor was this or that type of spirit imported from Europe, it had an easier day in marketing. On the other end was local brew from unsavory quarters and it is sold in equally unreachable places for upper class consumers, and they take the TDL product with regularity or assured frequency. It is the lower end of the market that visits shops, not dark alleys that TDL is losing.

The sort of clean up that TDL is seeking reminds people of the 2016 ban on plastic sachets selling hard liquor, where a number of people were bankrupted as their stocks suddenly became unmarketable. Still it wasn’t a check on quality per se that led to the sachets being banned but the whole problem of thin plastics, as the  government started with liquors in thin plastics and then descended on wrapping bags, easily visible when thrown all over the place. Environmentalists listed their nefarious effects, and did it.

The TBL official ventured to say that hard drinks being sold at cheaper prices compared to TDL products even have a fake certification number apparently issued by the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS). It isn’t helpful to check out if the claim is true, as if it was significant, TBS itself would go after those who falsify its certification, or perhaps it is tied to recognizing parallel certification by similar bodies on the basis of EAC protocols or wider import regulations. As they are sold in shops rather than street corners, chances that they are subjected to taxation significantly improve as they are available for inspection, etc.

It is without doubt that the hard drinks market is onerously competitive especially if TDL wishes to capture the lower end of the market, as its key product, Konyagi is by and large a middle class mainstay. The trouble with its arguments is that regulators will have a hard time coming up with sanitary excuses to clamp down on a range of its rivals. The best that could be done was the unsavory lightweight plastic packaging as uncontrolled and potentially toxic, while standard brand products now sold on shop counters are different. TDL may just have to live with that environment for wider happiness, to wit.

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