Kolkata, Oct 9 (IANS) With the growing party mood and the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government’s decision to reduce the number of dry days in the state, liquor sales during the Durga Puja festival are expected to increase by about 6 per cent over last year.
“The government decision to cut the number of dry days from 13 to 4.5 will definitely give an impetus to liquor sales. About 5-6 per cent rise in sales is expected during the festive days. The move will ensure availability and prevent black marketing all through the Durga Puja days,” All Bengal Excise Licensees’ Association General Secretary Pradyut Kumar Saha told IANS.
On dry days, sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited. Republic Day, Independence Day, Gandhi Jayanti, the 10th day of Muharram and Dol Jatra until 2 p.m. are now the only dry days in West Bengal.
The government did not yield to the Association’s appeal to announce Durga Asthami (October 9) as a dry day. Shops will remain open all through and will close on Muharram (October 12),” Saha said.
From the industry viewpoint, liquor sales usually pick up during the third (October-December) and fourth quarters (January-March). October sales generally jack up due to festivals in the Rs 6,000 crore (annual) liquor market in West Bengal.
“Liquor consumption goes up in the third and fourth quarters owing to festivals and seasonal change. We expect 30-35 percent growth in (company) sales during the entire festivals season. We garnered on an average Rs 300 crore a quarter in the first six months of the current fiscal. We expect to mop up Rs 400-450 crore per quarter in the second half of the fiscal,” Pincon Spirit Ltd’s CFO Arup Thakur told IANS.
He said festive quarter — October to December — usually contributes over 30 percent of annual sales.
Responding to a query whether any premiumisation is noticed during festivals, he said: “Nationally, premium segment liquor captures about 10-15 percent of the market and there is no exception for the state.”
Explaining consumer preferences during the festive season, Saha said customers who usually consumed country liquor would prefer IMFL liquor over domestic varieties during these days.
“But in terms of sales volume, country liquor sales were much higher than IMFL,” he said.
He also said control over illicit liquor sales would lead to more sales during the festival.