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Fool-proof liquor sticker repeatedly on ice 

a year ago

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By The Sunday Morning Business Desk   The implementation of fool-proof stickers on alcohol bottles and cans has been once again delayed, as preparations for the execution of the system have been hindered in the face of the prevailing pandemic, The Sunday Morning Business learns.  The fool-proof sticker system, which was announced initially a couple of years ago, is being postponed continuously, creating uncertainty about the implementation timeline. Speaking to us, Department of Excise Deputy Commissioner of Excise (Supply Chain Regulation and IT) R.M. Rathnayake stated that the sticker implementation is postponed until 15 October 2021. According to the Department, while importers already adhered to the requirement as of 2019, the extension of this system to local products has been delayed. “It’s postponed until 15 October due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Rathnayake said.  Speaking to us in June, Commissioner of Excise/Law Enforcement and Excise Department Media Spokesperson Kapila Kumarasinghe said that the regulation has already been passed in Parliament stating the system should be implemented from 1 July. “The problem is no one expected this kind of a lockdown,” he stated. “Therefore, how could we adhere to that regulation while facing this situation? Imports and exports have been hampered and therefore, industry readiness as a whole has also been hampered.” Adding, he said: “The lack of movement and lack of transportation means purchasing and bringing the machinery from abroad is not possible, since the relevant persons cannot fly abroad, and if they do, they have to face quarantine upon coming back.” The fool-proof sticker is a requirement initially introduced by the previous Ministry of Finance and the Department of Excise a few years ago to curb the mushrooming illicit liquor producers in the market and to reduce the loss in state revenue caused by it. Nevertheless, it was repeatedly postponed by the previous Government due to opposition from local alcohol manufacturers. On 1 January this year, in a letter to the Treasury, which was seen by The Sunday Morning Business, Excise Commissioner M.J. Gunasiri had stated that as per the Excise Notification No. 01/2021, the implementation of the fool-proof sticker could be either in the form of a normal sticker or a digital print. The Department of Excise provided a grace period until 31 June 2021 for alcohol companies to comply with the ban. In the meantime, this is not the first time the implementation of this scheme has been delayed. As exclusively reported by The Sunday Morning Business in August 2019, owing to the threats of closure of operations by local alcohol manufacturers, particularly the Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka PLC (DCSL) and Lion Brewery PLC, the two biggest hard liquor and beer manufacturers, respectively, the Government was forced to postpone the implementation of the law, which was initially scheduled to come into effect from 22 August 2019.  Following this, an excise notification was issued on 1 November 2019 by former MP Mangala Samaraweera in his capacity as the Minister of Finance at the time, and the date of implementation was set for 1 June 2020. However, this was once again delayed due to the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.   “So, there are many obstacles hampering implementation by the exact date, which is 1 July. However, as a department, we are trying our best to implement it by the scheduled date. We don’t know how soon it will happen because we don’t know how long this partial lockdown will last. When it lifts, we should evaluate the industry readiness at that time and implement the system,” Kumarasinghe elaborated. According to him, when the system is implemented, the contract would still be with the previously assigned Indian printing company – Madras Security Printers (Pvt.) Ltd. – and it would be implemented as a system of stickers with barcodes and digital coding.

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