Thailand alcohol fizzling out as COVID-19 restrictions widen

13, Apr. 2020

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BANGKOK, NNA: Alcohol sales in Thailand are expected to plunge by as much as 50 percent in April following a temporary ban nationwide on top of ongoing restrictions on gatherings to fight the spread of coronavirus infection, said alcohol dealers.

The alcohol ban from April 10 to 30 depending on provinces is to discourage people from holding parties and socializing even in small groups to celebrate Songkran, the Thai new year, this week.

Although the three-day public holiday from April 13 to 15 have been officially postponed, many people still flocked to buy alcohol when news of an impending ban in the Bangkok metropolitan was announced last week.

Some provinces had earlier announced the temporary prohibition before densely populated Bangkok followed suit. But the authorities decided on a blanket ban across all 77 provinces on Sunday to stop people in a celebratory mood from socializing.

Alcohol producers and dealers expect April sales to fall sharply between 40 and 50 percent following a prohibition on social gatherings and parties from March 26 and the latest alcohol ban.

Boon Rawd Trading Co., a major alcohol distributor of Singha and Leo beer, had estimated sales to slump to 50 percent, according to a news report.

Thailand has reported 2,579 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection and 40 deaths as of noon on Monday . Authorities were especially alarmed that many cases in big clusters were linked to gatherings at Bangkok nightspots.

Captain Pongsakorn Kwanmuang, spokesman of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration who announced the alcohol ban for the capital, said the COVID-19 situation "is getting better by the day and we don't want to see super-spreading during Songkran."

Bars, clubs and entertainment businesses have been forced to shut while the night curfew continues to be enforced in Bangkok.

Sales of alcoholic drinks in Thailand contributed 370 billion baht ($11.3 billion) to the total beverage market of 570 billion baht. Beer is the best-seller, commanding 54.4 percent of overall sales.

ThaiBev Co. remains the largest alcohol beverage seller in Thailand, dominating almost 80 percent of the market. Spirits and beer took up 90 percent of its sales in 2019, according to a ThaiBev report.

Before the nationwide ban was announced, Thanakorn Kuptajit, president of Thai Alcohol Beverage Business Association, had told a local newspaper that drinkers would still find a way to buy alcohol from smugglers, hoarders and underground producers.