Friday 19 July 2019

Minimum pricing of drink will be 'mayhem' unless North does same, warn retail groups

Stock image
Stock image
Warning: CEO of Dundalk Chamber of Commerce Paddy Malone says the Government risks mayhem. Photo: Arthur Carron
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Retailers are set to fight against moves to apply minimum pricing to alcohol, claiming it will create "mayhem" unless the North does likewise.

The Government had hoped to introduce new laws at the same time as the North but the ongoing political stalemate in Belfast has seen the move stalled indefinitely.

Health Minister Simon Harris now plans to push ahead unilaterally in the coming weeks, but businesses are preparing to push back on the grounds it will hurt trade in the Republic.

The Irish Independent has seen a report compiled by the Alcohol Beverage Association of Ireland which claims there will be a 38pc price differential if minimum unit pricing (MUP) is brought in on just one side of the Border.

While price hikes will be targeted at the cheapest alcohol, they predict a "laddering" effect that will see prices on "premium" products also rise.

Under the new laws, a 750ml bottle of white wine costing €5.99 will increase by €1.11, while 700ml of Tesco vodka currently costing €12.99 will see an increase of €7.72, making it €20.71. A bottle of Tesco gin costing €15.99 will rise by €4.72, to €20.71, while a can of Dutch Gold beer costing €1.13 will increase by 45c.

Banned

Minimum unit pricing will mean each drink sold in a shop is measured by the grammes of alcohol it contains. Major retailers will be forced to ensure any drink they sell is priced at no less than 10c per gramme of alcohol. This means supermarket chains and off-licences will be banned from selling cans of beer for less than €1 or average bottles of wine for less than €7.50. The new rules will also see supermarkets cut back on special offers for bulk-buying beer and wine.

CEO of Dundalk Chamber of Commerce Paddy Malone told the Irish Independent he believes the Government risks creating "mayhem".

He predicts "illegal organisations" will take advantage of the situation to smuggle "cheap booze" into the Republic. "I don't want a network that hasn't gone away involved in this. It's bad enough with cigarettes," he said.

He dismissed suggestions that only the cheapest alcohol will be affected, saying once shoppers go from Dundalk to Newry they will fill their basket with groceries.

In Donegal, CEO of Letterkenny Chamber Toni Forrester said she believes MUP is "a good idea for health reasons" but must happen at the right time.

"This is a unique time [with Brexit] and this is an unusual case where we should be in line with Northern Ireland," she said.

A spokesperson for Mr Harris said: "It is the minister's intention to introduce minimum unit pricing as soon as possible. Minimum unit pricing will help to save lives."

Irish Independent

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