RUSSIA: Government eyes tougher beer sales rules
- Bill proposes to treat beer like spirits
- Kiosk sales ban for beers over 5% abv
- Beer Union seeks to derail plan
Brewers face more restrictions in Russia
Brewers in Russia are seeking to derail a legislative proposal that seeks to further limit beer sales in the country.
Less than a year since the Russian Government tripled excise tax on beer, a fresh legislative proposal could see beer subject to the same sales restrictions as spirits.
Russia's State Duma, the lower house in the country's Parliament, passed the proposal in a first vote yesterday (3 November). The bill was introduced by Viktor Zvagelsky, who is a member of the United Russia party, the largest party in Parliament and which includes the current prime minister, Vladimir Putin.
Brewers are campaigning hard against the bill, which has two votes left to run in the State Duma and also requires the backing of the upper house and Russia's president in order to become law. If the bill is passed, sales of beer at more than 5% abv will be banned at street kiosks and pavilions in Russia.
"If this law is adopted, we can expect serious changes in the structure of alcohol consumption in Russia," said the chairman of the Union of Russian Brewers, Vyacheslav Mamontov. "Vodka will be consumed more often, and in greater quantities," he said.
Mamontov said that the bill would give spirits producers a "competitive advantage" and he cited Zvagelsky's "background in vodka business".
A spokesperson for Carlsberg, whose Baltika Breweries business commands a 40% volume share of Russia's beer market, told just-drinks that there is still time to propose amendments to the bill. "Brewers will take part in this process and we will try to convince legislators not to align beer with spirits legislation, as it will entail negative consequences for consumers and favour vodka against beer," he said today (4 November).
Some brewers will likely be hit worse than others if the bill becomes law. For example, Carlsberg told just-drinks earlier this year that most of its beers in Russia were below the 5% abv threshold.
Beer sales in Russia struggled earlier this year as a result of the duty tax hike, but have started to pick back up for several brewers in recent months. Anheuser-Busch InBev, the second biggest brewer in the country, this week reported an 8% rise in volume sales in Russia in the three months to the end of September.
For a quick overview of Russia's beer market, click here.
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