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Should you have to pay at least €2 for a can of beer? Pubs and off-licences think so

They want a minimum price for alcohol to put an end to cheap supermarket deals.
Mar 26th 2015, 1:44 PM 16,931 111

PUBLICANS AND OFF-LICENSEES want supermarkets to be forced into effectively doubling their cheapest prices on popular products like beer.

The head of Ireland’s National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA), Evelyn Jones, said the government should go beyond its plans for a minimum unit price on alcohol to an outright ban on heavily-discounted sales.

In a move clearly targeted at the big supermarket chains, where cans of lager are routinely offered for below €1 each in bulk deals, the group called for a floor price of €1 “or more” to be introduced on every 10 grams of alcohol in a product.

That would put the minimum retail price of a 500ml can of beer with a 5% alcohol concentration at €2.

But Jones told an Oireachtas joint committee on health and children, which was looking at the government’s proposed new alcohol laws, that there should also be rules to stop outlets selling alcohol at below invoiced costs.

18/2/2015  Pictured here is (l-r): Sea Evelyn Jones from NOffLA Source: Mark Stedman

“While some supermarket promotions may not be legal under minimum unit pricing, the discounting of premium brands will continue untouched,” she said.

Minimum unit pricing deals with one socio-economic profile and age group, and the legislation is an opportunity to introduce a ban on below-invoice cost selling which will work in tandem with minimum unit pricing to ensure alcohol is sold responsible across all social strata and ages.”

NOffLA provided this breakdown of how the pricing restrictions would work in practice:

Off licenses Source: NOffLA

Pubs want higher prices

Both the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA), which represents Dublin publicans, and the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, on behalf of publicans outside the capital, also support putting a minimum price on alcohol.

LVA chief executive Donal O’Keeffe said the price had to be set high enough to have a “significant impact on consumption patterns”.

Put simply, the minimum price must be significantly higher than the off-trade market price levels existing in March 2015,” he said.

O’Keeffe said the goal should be to return off-trade prices to those existing before the abolition of the Groceries Order in 2006, adjusted for inflation.

That would set the minimum price for a 500ml can of lager at €2, a 750cl bottle of wine at €10 and 700ml bottle of vodka at €23.50, he said.

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Carlow export successes. E Source: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Minimum pricing ‘ineffective’

However Ross MacMathúna, director of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), which represents major brewers and distillers, said setting a minimum unit price for alcohol would be “ineffective”.

There is full agreement in ABFI that the best and quickest way to do this is by the reintroduction of a ban on below cost selling of alcohol,” he said.

The government announced plans to introduce minimum alcohol pricing as part of a string of measures aimed at controlling problem drinking in early February.

Scotland was the first country in Europe to pass minimum alcohol pricing laws in 2012, but the rules have been challenged in the European Court of Justice ahead of their introduction.

Alcoholic drinks are already more expensive in Ireland, on average, than anywhere else in the EU except Finland, according the latest figures from Eurostat.

READ: Fewer school children are drinking alcohol every week >

READ: Diageo steps down from board of Stop Out-of-Control Drinking campaign >

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Peter Bodkin


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