Poisonings riposte shrinks alcohol black market
A decisive change in attitudes to the black market in alcohol has set in since the shock of the methanol poisoning affair four years ago which led to the deaths of dozens of people. The scandal forced the state to listen to the longstanding complaints of spirits producers and distributors. Subsequently, the fight against the black market was toughened up and the results are encouraging.
Compared to 2012 – known as the “prohibition year” after sales of hard spirits were banned following the poisonings – the illegal market has shrunk by two-thirds, while in contrast to 2004 it has decreased by four-fifths. “The state measures have succeeded in greatly limiting the black market. But it still exists,” said Jiří Štětina, vice-president of the Union of Spirits Producers and Distributors [UVDL] and director for central and southeastern Europe for drinks maker Rémy Cointreau. The black market accounted for nearly 37 percent of revenues a decade ago. In the wake of the methanol affair, new legal requirements were passed for labelling spirits, the installation of camera-based supervision over spirits storerooms and the introduction of mandatory deposits and concessions for producers, importers and distributors of hard-alcohol drinks.
UVDL estimates the illegal market’s size by comparing the difference between overall revenues calculated by the finance ministry and the higher revenue figure that should stem from total consumption, as assessed by the Czech Statistical Office. In 2004, the gap was calculated at around CZK 3bn, while in the tragic year of 2012 it was given as around CZK 2bn. For last year, the calculation was CZK 646m.