Beer bombshell: Guzzlers to dig deeper in their pockets

Several mêlées were reported in most drinking joints in Malawi’s commercial capital of Blantyre on New Year’s Day as imbibers and bar tenders tussled over new beer pricing.

Carlsberg Malawi announced price adjustments on all its clear beers, minerals, squashes and spirits with immediate effect.

For instance, the new official retail price for the popular Carlsberg Green (340ml) is now K150 while Carlsberg Special and Stout are both going at K170 with Kuche Kuche fetching K140. The 630ml bottle of Carlsberg Green fondly called by the imbibers as Kafwafwa or Petroda has been put at K250 though for the last six months it has not been on market.

According to a press release placed in Sunday papers, Carlsberg Malawi indicated that the price adjustments were with effect from 1st January 2012 and the company attributes the increase to the rising production and input costs.

“Carlsberg Malawi would like to inform all its valuable customers and consumers that it has adjusted its prices on clear beers and minerals with effect from 1st January, 2012,” reads the press release in part.

But most boozers were not aware of the increase and argued with bar tenders upon wanting to settle their bills that were on the higher side.

For instance, an imbiber in his early 20s nearly fought with bar man at a Chimwankhunda Bottle store after he was presented with a bill of K1080 instead of K900 for the six bottles of Kuche Kuche beers which he had consumed. The price increment on all the products represents more than 40 percent increase.

“Why did you not tell me in advance that you have adjusted the price?” fumed the young man. “I know Kuche Kuche is K150 and that is the money I am prepared to pay?”

Although the bar man countered by producing a newspaper advert which had new rates, the customer did not bulge arguing that the beer he was selling was from an old stock hence there was no need to charge them new prices.

Economic forces behind rising cost of beer

“This is day light robbery, you bought these beers at the old wholesale price yesterday or even a day before yesterday yet you are charging the new prices. Unless you or the owner produces receipts depicting the new purchasing price, I am not paying you the K180,” the customer stood his ground.

Reports reaching Nyasa Times indicate that the situation was the same in a number of drinking joints where bar tenders wanted to maximize profits by charging new prices on old stock.

The new prices as advertised by Carlsberg Malawi were to be effected on drinks that bar tenders bought on 1st January.

Further, Nyasa Times investigations revealed that on the day most bar tenders adjusted the price without the consents of the bottle owners and most of them pocketed the extra cash.

At Zingwangwa market, a bar man had to be rescued by a bouncer after being floored by  an irate customer for failing to substantiate the price increase after the customer noted that the change given to him was not what he expected.

A survey conducted by Nyasa Times show that the recommended wholesale and retail prices are only followed by major shops and chain stores like Peoples, Metro, Sana and Shoprite while all other outlets charge as they see it fit.

However, the company does not enforce the recommended price which leaves beer drinkers at the mercy of the operators.

It is, however, not known how retailers would handle the minerals prices which have officially been pushed to K60.00 from K50.00.

Already, the current price in most outlets range between K70.00 to K100.00 due to what in 2011 social and economic commentators dubbed ‘Malawi watsopano’.

Prices for an empty bottle (K25.00) and a crate (K300.00) have, however, not been adjusted.

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