Tipplers keep date with Onam
Kerala’s love affair with the bottle continued this festive season, the state recording Rs 487 core in liquor sales in the eight days leading to Onam, bettering last year’s figure by Rs 30 crore.
Stats released by the Kerala State Beverages Corporation, which controls all sales and marketing of liquor, show the sales were the highest — Rs 90.32 core — on Tuesday, Onam eve.
An outlet in Irinjalakuda, Thrissur, topped Tuesday’s sales at Rs 1.44 crore. A vend at the Alappuzha Court Junction came second, recording sales of Rs 93.58 lakh, while another on Power House Road in Thiruvananthapuram came third at Rs 92.93 lakh.
Keralites had bought liquor worth Rs 457 crore in the eight-day run-up to last year’s Onam, just weeks after floods had ravaged the state and taken a huge toll on life and property. In that context, the 6.5 per cent rise in business this year may have disappointed the industry.
The Onam season has always meant a bounty for the liquor business in Kerala, where even shutdowns help increase alcohol sales.
The state now levies around 200 per cent taxes on liquor, having hiked duties by 10 per cent to boost the chief minister’s disaster relief fund after last year’s floods.
Liquor sales in the state touched a record Rs 14,508 crore in financial year 2018-19, with a monthly average above Rs 1,200 crore.
The previous government headed by Oommen Chandy of the Congress had shut down most of the liquor outlets as part of a plan to eventually impose total prohibition.
The hugely unpopular decision forced Keralites to buy their liquor from neighbouring states and reduced drinking even during Onam during the middle years of this decade.
After coming to power in the early summer of 2016, the Left Democratic Front government revoked the ban and resumed liquor sales through the government vends. It even spiffed the vends up and began selling premium brands through them.