What you need to know:
- Let us embrace healthy competition and support the provision of quality choices in the market for Kenyan consumers.
- Money that is invested in Kenya by Kenyans stays in Kenya and builds the country.
Keroche Breweries, the largest wholly locally owned brewing company in Kenya, commends and supports the President’s call to fight illicit brews. The company has been at the forefront in fighting the illicit brews since inception in 1997.
However, looking at what has been happening recently, particularly with the intimidation of many legitimate businesses, the infringement of their rights, the huge losses suffered through the destruction of property, equipment and legitimate products — and with Kenyans losing their jobs and livelihoods as a result — it would be unfair and hypocritical of me not to come out and try to shed light on the issue.
We condemn the actions of some political leaders who do not have the professional skills to determine what is quality liquor and what is not, with some even jumping over fences. Determining what is legal or not is a task for the professionals at the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs).
IN A MESS
Legitimate brewing companies have been crying out for a long time for the government to regulate the alcohol industry because it is in a mess. The benefits of regulation include having quality products in the market, a level playing field for all businesses, the creation of professional jobs, support of innovative practices, remitting revenue to the government and instilling order and discipline in the industry.
Having been in the industry for the last 18 years, we know that sanity will only be realised if we work on the following.
First, we should support the President’s call to eradicate illicit brews. Everyone, from the common mwananchi to traders and leaders, must join the fight to eradicate the killer brews.
I wonder what goes through the mind of a person who brews liquor knowing it will kill those who drink it. This man or woman will not give this drink to their children but they are willing to give it to others.
The government must also enforce the law on unlicensed manufacturers who ship in illicit alcohol through corrupt means and distribute illegal or counterfeit alcohol to innocent Kenyans.
The truth is we all know these people, especially our leaders. Kebs cannot always reach them because they are not licensed and operate underground. They must, therefore, be weeded out and arrested.
This group of traders provides an uneven playing field as they sell their alcohol at 70 per cent less than the market rate mainly because they don’t pay tax. Of more concern is the fact that the quality of their liquor is questionable and cannot be certified as fit for human consumption.
Next to this category are those who are licensed but are not regulated by the government. These too operate underground and do not pay taxes. They sell cheap alcohol because they evade paying tax knowing that they are distributing questionable products.
The mandated government agents must be more rigorous in following up and checking the quality of their products to ensure they are compliant in everything they do — from payment of taxes to certifying that they are using the right equipment, are following proper health and safety measures in their breweries, and investigating their sources of raw materials.
Those who fail to comply must be closed down and prosecuted. If this is done, there will be no need for the rowdy raids we have been witnessing.
There is also the need to plan a commercial centre equitably. It is important that county governments plan and organise the setting up of bars based on the statistics provided by the national government.
There must be an equitable distribution of bars alongside other shops, businesses and social amenities such as schools and churches.
Traditional brews such as muratina, busaa and mnazi among others are part of our cultural heritage and are mainly consumed at ceremonial events. They must be protected and supported.
In addition, legitimate breweries also require protection as they are committed to producing and distributing quality alcoholic beverages, have invested heavily, pay all their taxes, are regularly inspected by both Kebs and the Kenya Revenue Authority, provide professional jobs to Kenyans, create wealth and play a dominant role in economic development.
Owners of legitimate breweries work hard to protect the integrity of their businesses. They check the quality of their liquor first without the prompting of government inspectors. They are innovative in their thinking and work hard to meet international standards because their vision is bigger. They take years to build brands that can effectively compete globally.
These brewers need the protection and support of government to thrive. The last thing they need to see is our leaders hiring gullible residents to destroy property and investments.
If Kenya’s liquor industry is to be respected globally, we must do all the above.
For a country to be respected for its efforts in protecting local and foreign investment, it must be seen to selfishly protect its own alcoholic brands first before embracing the foreign ones.
In other countries, they proudly display and market their own local brands, brewed by their own. It is shameful when a country fails to protect its own brand and denies it in public.
Let us embrace healthy competition and support the provision of quality choices in the market for Kenyan consumers. Let us compete fairly. Let the brands battle for their market share.
NOTHING OF THE SORT
Let us not confuse the market by claiming there is first, second, third and fourth generation alcohol when we all know that nothing of the sort exists.
The formula to make quality beer, vodka, whisky, spirits, wine, etc is the same worldwide, whether it was produced 500 years ago, today or 500 years from now.
Kenya should learn from the rest of the world. Quality alcohol enhances social events and promotes socialisation. What better way is there to build a healthy, working, drinking nation than by providing the citizens with healthy alcohol?
Money that is invested in Kenya by Kenyans stays in Kenya and builds the country, unlike that of foreign investors that builds the economy of their mother countries.
Tabitha Karanja is the CEO of Keroche Breweries. [email protected]