Kerala, No: 1 boozing State: Economic Review

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Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 9: Latest Economic Review presented to the State Assembly said that Kerala leads in per capita consumption of liquor at a whopping 8.3 litres as against four litres in the rest of the country. Despite high literacy and concerted efforts by several religious as well as voluntary organisations against the evil of drinking, Kerala has been emerging as one of the largest consumer of alcohol in the world. The per capita consumption of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) by Keralites points to such a disaster.

It is a common sight that Malayalees standing in queues before the outlets of the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC), the sole distributor of IMFL in the state. According to a recent survey, even women, though in small numbers, have been drinking as part of socialising. More and more youths are also turning to alcohol after giving up smoking.

Sales records of 20 years with the KSBC points out that per capita alcohol consumption in Kerala is increasing year after year, pushing Punjab to second place (7.9 litres). ''There is considerable increase in the sale of IMFL and beer during the last few years registering a 31 per cent growth during the past six months alone (April-September),'' KSBC Managing Director N Shanker Reddy told UNI.

He said the Corporation was expecting a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore during the current fiscal, more than the previous year's sale as it had already crossed Rs 2,642.18 crore during the last seven months from April to October as against Rs 2,019 crore during the corresponding period last year.

''As per the trend, the total turnover will cross Rs 4,700 crore as the sales percentage remained unchanged at 31 from the beginning of the current fiscal,'' he added.

Mr Reddy said Malayalees were also not behind in beer consumption with more and more youths and women going in for the lager, boosting its sales considerably. A total of 33.14 lakh cases of beer were sold till September as against 26.83 lakh cases during the same period last year. With regard to IMFL, 87.40 lakh cases had been sold out during the period as against 69.75 lakh cases last year.

He said turnover from IMFL sales had jumped to Rs 3,669.49 crore during 2007-2008 from a mere Rs 81.42 crore in 1987-1988. It expected to touch Rs 4,700 crore during the current fiscal.

Though not much increase had been noticed till 1996-1997 in the sales of IMFL, a two-fold increase had been registered in the sales ever since arrack was banned in the state in 1996. Turnover from IMFL sales was only Rs 477.60 crore before banning arrack.

However, the turnover rose to Rs 762.93 crore in the following year and since then a steady growth was noticed.

Mr Reddy said rum was the favourite drink of common man in the state and it constituted 62 per cent of the total sales followed by brandy with 32 per cent.

It is during 'Onam' and Christmas festivals that the sales double. Ernakulam topped the districts in alcohol sales, followed by Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Thrissur. However, Idukki is the lowest consuming district in the state, he added.

Since taxes on IMFL and other alcoholic beverages yield the maximum tax revenue for the state, which has been turning a deaf year on the demands of various organisations to impose prohibition.

The state had received a revenue of Rs 2,914.28 crore from the KSBC alone as its share, besides crores of rupees from bar licences.

Mr Reddy said the KSBC, which began with 300 outlets now had 330 outlets. There was a demand from people's representatives for opening more outlets in their respective areas. But a section of people was opposed to opening more outlets.

The state also has more than 500 bars opened by individuals and 50 beer parlours run by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC).

UNI

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