As if in reward for bubbling up its revenue fountain by an extra Rs 671 crore in 2017-2018, Kerala’s monopoly liquor distributor Bevco will, for the first time, serve its loyal tipplers about 150 of the leading FMFL (foreign-made foreign liquor) brands such as Chivas Regal and Glenfiddich.
Though billed several times as the country’s top guzzler of IMFL (Indian-made foreign liquor), Kerala was yet to ‘officially’ open the front doors for FMFL brands. “As soon as the label registration issues between leading FMFL suppliers and the Kerala government are sorted out, about 147 FMFL brands and foreign wine brands will hit the Kerala market,” H Venkatesh, managing director of state-run Bevco, told FE.
Apart from the occasional bottle of foreign brands brought in by an NRI relative or a globetrotter friend, the average boozer in the state is yet to have quick access to FMFL varieties.
Glenfiddich single malt, priced Rs 57,710 per 700 ml, will be among the first lot of premium FMFL brands to be available in Bevco outlets for the connoisseurs from this month. “However, those in the league of Chivas Regal will be served in the next phase,” Venkatesh said.
After the Left government came to power in May 2016, 99 hotels were granted licences to operate liquor bars. “Despite the logistics difficulties for Bevco outlets, the annual revenue from liquor sales has spurted by Rs 671 crore from Rs 10,353 crore to touch Rs 11,024 crore,” state excise minister TP Ramakrishnan said.
As the sale of FMFL catches up, Bevco counts on its turnover further perking up by Rs 100 crore per year. Although Bevco sells whisky, vodka, gin, rum and brandy, the local boozer will be new to tequila and liqueur (a sweet, potent, alcoholic beverage taken post-meal).
Catholic Bishops, who spearhead the prohibition argument in Kerala, had been up the warpath when chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan allowed the bars that were closed down during the previous Congress-lead UDF government’s rule to be back in business. Deferring to their pleas, however, the LDF government raised the legal drinking age from 21 years to 23 years.
“Foreign investors and tourists would appreciate the upgrade in the state since quality liquor is part of urban lifestyle,” Air Travel Enterprises chairman and managing director EM Najeeb said, adding: “It’s not about alcohol, but then, availability spells choice.”