Beer price set to drop in Bengal from next week

Kolkata: Here comes good news for tipplers in the state as prices of all segments of beer is going to get reduced in the next week with the state stepping into the regime of new excise taxation policy.

The prices of beer in Bengal will be one of the cheapest in the country with a notification issued by the West Bengal State Beverages Corporation (Bevco) that will lead to a reduction in prices of mild beer by around 25 to 40 per cent while the same for the strong ones will come down by around 15 to 20 per cent.

Citing an example, a senior official of the state Excise directorate: "If at present a bottle of beer costs Rs 180, it will come down to at least Rs 130 from the next week."

The move will not only boost the demand encouraging consumption of low alcohol content liquor, but also considered to be ensuring a hike in excise revenue generation by around Rs 4,000 crore per year.

The new excise taxation policy was framed following a detailed study on best practices of the same in other parts of the country by an expert committee that had submitted a 200-page report. Unlike the earlier practice of levying excise duty and sales tax on the maximum retail price (MRP), the rate of excise duty and additional excise duty will now be based on the ex-distillery price (EDP) of the liquor on "bulk litre" basis. There are 32 slabs, categorised as per the EDP of mild and strong beer, to demarcate the rate of excise duty. In the first week of September, Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and beer companies were asked to submit tenders for registration of EDP and ex-brewery prices (EBP) along with registration of logo and brand.

Bengal had witnessed an abnormal hike in beer and liquor prices with the imposition of 30 per cent sales tax in April, which would no more exist, and it had come up as one of the reasons behind the drop in sale of liquor besides the Covid situation. Welcoming the drop in beer prices, Sudesh Poddar, president

of Hotel and Restaurant Association of Eastern India, said: "It will lead to an increase in the sale of beer and it is healthy for hotels and bars as people will also have some food along with beer."

Since the liquor shops reopened on May 4 in Bengal after remaining closed for more than one and a half months due to Covid, the revenue generation till September in this fiscal dropped to Rs 4,392 crore which was Rs 5,638 crore. Besides the fall in revenue generation by around 22.08 per cent compared to that of the corresponding period last year, the consumption of beer, liquor and country spirit had reduced by around 78 per cent, 45 per cent and 40 per cent, sources in the Excise directorate stated adding that usually the excise revenue generation in Bengal was Rs 11,232 crore in 2019-20. "Since the new taxation policy is getting implemented in phases and from the middle of the fiscal, we will get to witness an increase in the revenue generation of Rs 4,000 crore after one complete financial year," the official said.

The same for the IMFL is likely to be notified in November and the same will be categorised in 22-slabs based on which the excise duty will be fixed. But, the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) has moved to the top brass of the state Excise directorate and also sought an appointment of the newly appointed Finance Secretary Manoj Pant considering that allowance of 30 per cent variation with that of the lowest EDP for IMFL would further benefit the sector. Vinod Giri, Director General of CIABC, said: "We are optimistic towards a positive discussion and decision in the state government's end in this connection."

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