Looming liquor sachet ban stirs debate in Malawi

·         NGOs have petitioned parliament to adopt legislation banning the production of liquor sachets

Several of Malawi’s NGOs and consumer watchdogs are demanding a total ban on the sale of liquor spirit sachets, which they blame for fuelling alcohol abuse among the youth.

Red card to alcohol in Sachet

Red card to alcohol in Sachet

“Malawians are poor, so the most attractive recreational drug they can afford is liquor in sachets,” John Kapito, executive director of the Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA) told Anadolu Agency.

“Sadly, these sell at less the cost of a lottery ticket,” he said. “For the poor, [liquor] sachets are a jackpot.”

On the market, liquor sachets sell for less than 100 Malawi kwacha ($0.02) each.

Liquor sold in small sachets was first outlawed in the southern African country in May of 2013.

But manufacturers rushed to the courts to appeal the move – and they succeeded.

Since then, liquor sachet sales have risen, resulting in more youths becoming dependent on alcohol – and some dying after taking too many on an empty stomach.

Kapito said the Liquor Act does not allow alcohol to be packaged in plastic, only in glass.

That’s why NGOS have petitioned the parliament to adopt legislation banning the production of liquor sachets.

“We want it banned,” Jefferson Milanzi, leader of Young Achievers for Development, another local NGO, told AA.

“Without a ban, this war will not end,” he said. “Sachets are affecting us, children.”

Parliament’s health committee has backed the calls.

“There is an outcry for a ban on [liquor] sachets and, as a committee, we will support it because we have enough evidence out there that people don’t want sachets,” committee chairperson Juliana Lunguzi told AA.

She said Malawi had so many challenges affecting the health sector, but stressed that prevention of youths getting hooked on drugs should be given priority.

Lunguzi added that her committee wanted to “ensure that youth is protected and raised to become responsible citizens.”

-Defense-

But the calls for a ban have ruffled a few feathers.

“We meet all certification requirements of the Malawi Bureau of Standards,” said Raj Munnangi of the Alcohol Manufacturers Association (AMAM).

He told AA that all alcohol packed in sachets complied with the requirements spelled out in the MalawiCompanies Act.

He dismisses claims that liquor sachets are unsafe and fuelling alcoholism.

Munnangi insisted that the product was cheaper because it was cheap to produce and environmentally friendly as it uses less plastic.

“The sachet size and efficient usage of the packaging material makes it competitive,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with producing a product efficiently.”

“We pay taxes, create jobs and are a market for local ethanol producers,” added Munnangi.

AMAM believes that restricting the sachets would create “undue advantages” in the market for certain kinds of alcohol drinks, like beer and opaque beer.

Many environmentalists argue that, while the liquor sachets only use 2kg of plastic compared to the 14kg used in plastic bottles, the damage caused to the human body outweighs its benefits to the environment.

The government, for its part, is caught between wanting to bag the taxes from the product on one hand and protecting the lives of the youth – a huge voter constituency – on the other.

To discourage production, it imposed a 250-percent Excise Tax and Value Added Tax (VAT) on liquor sachets – considerably higher than any other alcohol beverages.

Nevertheless, demand for sachets remains higher than before, according to the consumers watchdog.

Industry and Trade Minister Joseph Mwanamvekha has contended that, while sachets are a menace, various stakeholders – including consumer protection agencies – should help the government regulate the packaging of liquor spirits sold in sachets.

“The liquor in sachets is a social and health problem, as well as an economic issue,” he told AA.

He said the government wanted the issue dealt with, but noted that it required effort from all relevant stakeholders.

“If we do business as usual, we will lose a generation, because sachets are now being consumed even in schools,” Mwanamvekha asserted.

While people wait for the ban, small shops have opened at every corner in townships and residential areas to cash in on liquor sachets as people – especially the poor – continue to demand it.

“We like it [liquor spirit sachets] because of its high alcohol content and low price,” Amon Juniwelo, a street vendor in Blantyre, told AA.

“You can buy ten sachets and just sip one at a time while in a bus or on your bicycle,” he added.

“One sip and you’re snoring; it makes life easy,” laughed a visibly inebriated Juniwelo.

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43 thoughts on “Looming liquor sachet ban stirs debate in Malawi”

  1. RFD says:

    Looming? Really? They should have banned the damn things by now!

  2. Lexi Cruz says:

    Has overtaxing the liquor to make it expensive and less accessible been considered?

  3. Malawi gold magazine on facebook says:

    Nkhani yachambayo pitani ‘malawi gold magazine’ pa facebook mukaone nokha

  4. kwayera unva says:

    it’s shameful to our leaders failing to sort out this simple issue, it’s obvious that these sachets are killing our fellow brothers. why can’t you just rule out to stop immediately selling these sachets. don’t waste our taxes to discuss this nonses in parliament just do like what Kamuzu used to do, like ma Indians (mmwenye) kuti achoke mma rural shopping centers ndipo zimathekadi thawi yomweyo. the other example is Zimbabwe anybody found kuphika mowa wa masese kapena kachasu must get arrested n pay $50 opezeka akumwa kachasuyo must pay $20 or save jail 3 months and bcoz of that, you can’t see anybody trying the mistake. so why can’t you operate in the same way.let us use our brains pls, people are dying every tym .

    1. Lexi Cruz says:

      Then you’ll worry about dictatorship

  5. Tbird says:

    Beer is beer and alcohol is alcohol. When talking about the dangers of alcohol, it is not only alcohol in sachets. So, if you want government to effect a ban, then let it just ban anything alcoholic. Simple.

  6. Dzoneni says:

    BAN THE SACHETS!!!!

  7. nyaluwiro says:

    my cousin is very sick because of dis fucken sachets so called beer government better ban dis now now,

  8. Mcdonold says:

    Someone’s food is someone’s poison.Very interesting.Even Chamba is being sold as hotdogs in shops.Kale anthu amasutila ku jungle.ndiye mukuti bwanji AMalawi.Kaya?

  9. Timwe zimenezi anao amawatuma ndani muganiza kuti mowa otchipa ndiwamasacheti basi ayamba kumwa kachaso

  10. JB says:

    these sachets have been banned in Zambia long ago.Copy from our neighbors. Stop the abuse NOW.

  11. Livulezi river says:

    Does one of the distiller’s relatives drink such kind of ” matokoso” to claim that the beer is environment friendly? He must be an idiot! I lost my brother- in -law back home August this year due to this type of beer. Is govt interested in its people’s welfare & future or is only interested in money? Why should the govt wait for the parly to do this simple & straight forward issue? Nyasatimes should investigate one of our top govt dogs masquerading as a minister who had pocketed the money so as to keep the issue at bay till it gets forgotten!!! Sibwino choncho a minister!!!!! Kondani dziko lanu, musakonde ndalama!!!!!

  12. MBANO NDI ZEPETE says:

    evn married pple akumamwa ma sachet akabwera mmakomo azitimenya

  13. tumwe tumwe says:

    pali zambiri zonjoyetsa zomwe ma youth tikukonda masiku ano. Sitingakwanitse mowa wa mbotolo ma blackberry ali bho. Kuyiwala mavuto pa malawi. Pekapeka kuletsa ma sachet mwasowa popezera ma allowance m’malo mokamba nkhani zenizeni ngati kuchepa kwa malipiro a ma civil servant pitani uko demeti

  14. Yobe boo says:

    Be honest here, ONSE akuoneka apawa ndizidakwa zotheratu, tazionani maso, sisi mumitu, zovala ngati zigawenga. Koma ndalama za mabungwe akapemphetsa kunamiza ma donors zimaphwekaaaa!

  15. Manyaamowa says:

    As i write now,in the afternoon i took some “choice sachets”i tell u they’re very very mwekabo kkkk(i don’t laugh)

    Mukakhuta mowa wanu wa 50pin osamati tikamamwa masachet tikufuna.

    Mukufuna Prophet akutukwaneni agalu inu.

    Ndisamveso,zikundiwawa civil servant kumafinyila sachet coz of deflated pockets.

    Tiyamba kukuberani mukaimika njale zanuzo pa out.Chimtumbo.

  16. William kaunda says:

    Alcohol in sachet is indeed very bad,especially to school going students. If govt. is failing to ban the staff, they might as well legalise chamba, because the effect is the same.

  17. pierra says:

    catch 22 for the Govt, reduced tax revenue or not!
    And since when do NGO’s dictate Government policy!

  18. Vyachalo says:

    we need time of drink bear.

  19. Sapitwa kakulanye says:

    Why waste time, if the liquor sachets are used by the under age then the sellers are not responsible. If they are causing damage to future of Malawi then government should just ban them, no need to go to parliament.

  20. Cleo says:

    I urge you ( Nyasa Times) to make sure that next time you note that it was not just NGOs but also a grouping of artists,musicians, dramatista,video makers, tv personalities and many more. But also students and people who have actually seen the effects of these satchets.
    And to you satchets supporters, Please do not undermine our intelligence and tell us how many jobs you are creating and how much revenue is being made. Malawian youth who are actually the most affected are loosing their way and have absolutely become dependent on this cheap alcohol. these satchets are dangerous,if not please stand on a podium everyday for only 3 months and have a satchets each day. if you survive this then by all means I put my battle weapons down and support the sale of satchets.
    My stand today,RED CARD to satchets, until then give me real proof that these things are not dangerous.

  21. collins says:

    u dogs don’t think,i mean u mr kapito who just think of urself u recently held of the price rise of passports,forbing them to go and work out side the country but now u just want to buy fame on the poor.the park is real but timing is poor.have now seen how chamba is now being smoked in the public /zikhute and u r just fighting opeleka msonkho,is it personal?if u r genueing fight it all because this has turned malawi into a home of young thieves.

  22. Cashgate 1 says:

    Probably these guys should suggest to policy makers (MPs) that govt should regulate time for drinking beer. Its awkward to find people that are drunk during early morning hours. What time do they have for their country/personal development? So if time can be regulated and govt be strict with it then it may improve the conditions and when people must drink. At least it can give the youth time to be productive during the day.

  23. eye eye says:

    Isn’t this being myopic and taking a piece meal approach? We have had sachets before in the name of big brands like Brandy, Malawi Gin and Power No. 1 but all this noise was not there? why? because the brandy/mw Gin satchets were expensive I guess.

    So the issue is not satchets alone per se, its more than that! We seem to concentrate more on the satchets than also try to civic educate our youths on the dangers of alcoholism! we need to take a holistic approach to this issue? For examle we concentrate on shops not selling alcohol to those under 18, BUT WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT FOR THE UNDER 18 YOUTH WHO TAKE ALCOHOL? nothing? This is another angle to be taken seriously? is it a crime to take alcohol by the under aged? if so, what is the punishment? this can put some sense in these youths too!

    Apart from the youth, there are also the adults who do enjoy taking alcohol in satchets for various reasons? so lets debate this soberly and address it holistically not the piece meal approach e are taking here! i rest my case.

  24. Phuzi says:

    Please note that this is an of extrem importance and there should be no compromise. This Munnangi guy is the one fueling the production of these killer sachets can we just deport him? I will burn down your factory in Lilongwe and ask you to go back to India.

    sachets are a poison. Why is that He Munnangi does not take them? We must all catch this guy and drain a few Sachets down his Stupi throat and he will know that we are serious

  25. zebe says:

    In Malawi we debate on almost everything including on trivial matters. In Zambia these sachets were banned with no debating just after seeing the mess they caused in the society. Wake up Malawi

  26. Frustrations with the ever rising cost of living and lack of jobs. If only 54% of the youths passed MSCE this year, what happens to the 44%. These are the root causes. We will never solve these problems unless we tackle the roots.

  27. kajedza says:

    Kapito says that Liquor Act does not permit sachets. How come in the last two to three decades Premier Brandy, Malawi Gin & Power No. 1 were sold in sachets by Malawi Distellries in 30ml packs, no one, including Kapito , objected all these years. Is this a discrimination that corporates were allowed to sell and SME cannot.

    If you check with MRA there is a HS code which gives the import duty rate for alcohol imported in sachets. Does MRA/ Finance ministry not aware of the Liquor Act.

    A few years ago when Coco cola was sold with rusted caps ( Tops) MBS did not raise any finger. There was no ban , no fine, no rectification just because it was a corporte. Where was consumer associatin and teh NGOs at that time

  28. mwalezera masacheti omweo mwatiyeni tivale matishiti ofiira osapisira miti ziboliboli tikadi tanu mmanja magean achikazi pachikileni mthupi agalu kuba eti mufuna azikupasani ndalama agalu pezeni zina zochita

  29. drinking is an a choice of person then there is no need for some who do want to drink to advise why people they go for other beers TAKE NOTE any beer reduces thinking capecity depend on how much usually you take how litres you take
    you must be very stupid if don’t think of these zisilu zakuba basi.

  30. john k black says:

    MK 100 is less than US 0.20, but not less than US 0.02. Get your numbers right, Nyasatimes! Both the journalist and the proof reader should know this.

  31. Batchala says:

    Kodi timamwera zanu? Or is it a crime to consume alcohol? Mafuta ndi awo akungokwelerakwelerabe bwanji simukutokotapo?

  32. Gilbert says:

    I lost three brothers to this sachets, now am alone on this planet ban it, it has a very serious side effect

  33. MVANVARA says:

    Anthu Azitani Ngati Mutaletsa Ma Sachet

  34. Charger says:

    Mukuganiza kuti tizikumwerani chani? Kapena tingoyamba kusuta chamba?

  35. man deu says:

    mwaonjeza kwambiri mpaka 32%

  36. Hon Chakhwa says:

    Ask my committee. As Legal Affairs Committee we shall definitely debate the petition

  37. Guest says:

    My belief is that the ethanol plants must only sell ethanol that has been diluted to 25% proof. This will enable the satchet manufactures only alcohol that has less alcoholic values and less debilitating to a humans internal organs.

  38. GRACIAN KALIJE says:

    Goverment should ban it because its afecting our youths.

  39. bayoz says:

    Most malawians are poor and can not afford calsberg or chibuku beer which are is too expensive. You ma activist whatever you call yourself, If you really want sachets to disappear then you should first campaign for price reduction of chibuku and calrsberg products otherwise i’m totally against your move. We found an alternative to kachasu and now you want to take it away from us, kupusa eti

    1. Opusa ndiweeeeee!bwanji kumakakamila zinthu zowononga moyo?asiyendi kupanga mowa wama sachet,chifukwa umapangisa kuti ana ambili azilowelera khalidwe lopandapake.

    2. Kanthu Ako! says:

      You learn to drink alcohol, therefore it is not a necessity, therefore you should also learn to pay for it.

    3. Bob says:

      I agree with let the government alternatively reduce tax on chibuku and other bottled liquor.

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