Economic empowerment of blacks and economic development in the South African liquor industry could be hampered rather than promoted by a draft National Liquor Bill making its way through parliament.

There was widespread dissatisfaction expressed from all the major supermarkets, SABMiller and the Wholesale Merchant Forum of the Wine and Spirit Industry of SA, which said parts of it could be unconstitutional.

Forum director, Advocate Riaan Kruger, said the best point at which to promote economic development was by addressing the vast number of unlicensed operators at retail level.

Among the concerns were that the Bill prohibited a manufacturer from selling liquor to a retailer without the express permission of the Minister of Trade & Industry as a condition of registration.

"The previous Bill stated that a manufacturer may sell liquor to any licensed person. It is unclear why this specific section has been replaced with unfettered discretion being given to the Minister.

"This will give rise to a situation in which individual applicants for registration can be treated selectively and on the basis of different sets of rules. The unintended consequence is that industry participants will be reluctant to embark on long-term investments because of the uncertainty that this creates," Kruger said.