Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

Ethiopia: Local Liquor in Short Supply for Yet Another Holiday

The majority of alcohol consumers tend to drink locally produced alcohol due to its price disparity as compared to imported ones.

Liquor made by the National Liquor & Alcohol Factory, continues to command greater demand for local products. But they, as well as others, remain in short supply, due to the lack of molasses from sugar factories, which they receive through the Sugar Corporation.

A liquor distributor in Kera has stocked his store, Gigi Distibutors, with brands, other than National,as a result of the shortage.

Gigi Shiferaw, 27, runs his business with his seven siblings. They took the business over from their father, in 2000. They distribute liquor to retailers, groceries and consumers in Kirkos district, Wereda Seven, around Kera Mazoriya.

Gigi's father started the business because there were few distributors covering the area, according to Gigi. He ran the store for seven years, before giving it up to his kids.

"When we started the business, there was high demand," Gigi says. "There was also enough supply of liquor."

One of Gigi Distributors main supplier is the National Alcohol & Liquor Factory, established in 1977, with a paid up capital of 147,000 Br. Currently, National has four branches;at Mekanisa, Sebeta, Akaki and Mekanisa; all in Addis Abeba.

National has increased its production, by an average of 12pc, over the last 10 years, but it still lags behind the demand. Among the other distillers, encroaching on National's market, are;Asnake Alcohol Drink Industry, Balezaf Alcohol & Liquor Factory Plc and EIGB International Plc.

The most in demand brand among National's products is 'Mother and Child' (EnatEnaLige), which Gigi's store has not carried for six months. This popular liquor is one of the 10 types of liquor produced by National.

Others include; Gin, Ouzo, Aperitif, Supermint andCognac.

National has suspended the production of 'Mother and Child' for the past six months now,in order to shift demand to other brands. In many stores, one can only see the empty bottles on the shelves.

"We decided to stop production until we balance the demand and supply," Kokebe Kumbi, marketing head of National Liquor & Alcohol Factory, said.

Betty Grocery, aroundOlympia, and Wondwossen Grocery, inAdamaTown, which Fortune visited four months ago, for the Ethiopian New Year, are still faced with a shortage of National's brands.

"Since we are not in Addis Abeba, we are not getting anything from National," Wondosen Zewdu, owner of the grocery in Adama, told Fortune.

Affected by scarcity of locally made liquor, a crowd gathers outside the National Alcohol and Liquor Factory located Dej.Welde Mikael Streetwaiting their turn to purchase a bottle of their favorite brand.

According to Teketel Ergichi, manager of Andinet Grocery, located close to Gigi's store, more than 120 cups of National's brands are usually sold each day, during peak sales seven months ago; but now sales are down to just 50 cups a day.

Gigi has 2,580 crates for various beverages; 180 are for liquors, whilst the rest are for beer and soft drinks. Of the 180 liquor bottles, 120 were reserved for National's liquor. But they are not using more than 40 of them, Gigi says.

According to Gigi, their customers are usingCognacas an alternative for 'Mother and Child', since they have very similar tastes.

ButCognacitself is not available on the market, Gigi says. He says that previously he used to get 15 to 20 boxes at a time; now that figure is down to no more than two boxes.

Kokebe does not agree with the complaints. Except Uzo, which has a high demand in the market, the factory is still supplying the liquor market at afair price, she says.

National planned to produce 4.2 million litres of liquor,during the 2011/12 fiscal year, but exceeded it,by producing 5.6 million litres.

Liquor makers say that the shortage in molasses from sugar factories, which is the main ingredient for alcohol, is the reason they cannot meet demand. The supply was available from Wenji, Metehara and Fincha sugar factories, until 2010. But, except for Metehara, the other factories started to use the molasses mainly for ethanol production, by mixing it with benzene.

Shortage of National liquor products,has made groceries and consumers turn to the other liquor brands,such as Balezaf, which is owned by a company of the same name. Balezaf has a wider demand, than others, in most bars and groceries, Fortune learned. At 8pm on January 2, 2013, seven out of 11 customers who were drinking alcohol, in Wondwossen's grocery, were drinking Balezaf.

Balezaf produces 20,000 litres,of various liquor, a day, including;Uzo, Gin and Supermint. But,Balezaf itself is not immune from the shortage of molasses, according to an official, who declined to be named. The company has been producing at 30pc capacity, since February, 2012, sometimes going as low as 10pc. There are also times where they have had to import molasses fromBrazil, and other countries.

The Balezaf official points his finger at the Sugar Corporation for shortage of molasses.

However, Yilma Tibebu, the Sugar Corporation's public relations officer, contested the complaintby saying that the Sugar Corporation is providing the factories with rectified spirit, a highly concentrated ethanol, to make up for the loss in molasses.

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