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Karnataka’s liquor industry stares at dry days ahead


With water scarcity hampering production, the state’s liquor industry is staring at dry days, literally.The manufacturing units, which are dependent on borewells, are feeling the pinch of four successive drought years and are likely to cut production drastically.

“The groundwater situation is so critical that 70 to 80 per cent of borewells will completely dry up if there’s no rain in the next one month. The water-dependent industries such as liquor and beer manufacturers are likely to hit badly. Many of them may even have to shut their units,” said Kavali V R, senior geologist at Kar nataka Groundwater Directorate.

The manufacturers have already been facing scarcity of raw material, molasses, a byproduct of sugar. The production of sugarcane has been low due to drought. Experts expect at least 45 per cent dip in Indian-made liquor (ILM) and beer production.

“It’s going to be a low-production year for the liquor industry. If remedial measuresX are not taken at the earliest, the production of IML and beer will come down not less than 45 per cent,” said Shivalingaiah, secretary general of Karnataka Brewers and Distillers Association.

Karnataka has 33 distilleries manufacturing IML and three breweries producing beer. On an average, 45 lakh cases of ILM are being pro duced a month (each contains 8.4 litres of IML) and 20 lakh cases of beer (each containing 6.5 litre). While IML needs 60 per cent of water and 40 per cent rectified spirit produced by molasses, 90 per cent of water is required for beer production. A rough estimate suggest over 2.5 crore litres of water for IML and another 5 crore litre for beer production.

An official in the ground water directorate said the static level of groundwater had already gone to 1,200 feet in and around Bengaluru, while the average level is 400 feet. Elsewhere, like in Kolar, the situation is even worse and water level has further gone down to touch 1,800 feet.

According to Rakshit N Jagadale, director of Amrut Distilleries Limited, the major issue is quality of water. “The groundwater level has gone down, so has quality . The liquor manufactures will have to spend more on purification of water through the ion-exchange process and de-mineralization,” Jagadale said.

He said while his distillery requires 60,000 litres of water a month, most of it is being supplied by borewells. “If there’s shortage, we need to procure from outside,” he added.

However, K L A Padmanabha Sa Khoday , joint managing director of Khoday India Ltd, a prominent beer manufacturer, said the situation is not out of control so far and his company would have to opt for a contingency plan if needed.

Even the excise department is worried about the dry spell staring at the state since the short supply of liquor would hurt its revenue. The department is among the few which withstood the impact of demonetization. The revenue collection through liquor sales touched Rs 14,500 crore as of February-end, as against the annual target of Rs 16, 510 for 2016-17.

Source: Times of India

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