Raising a glass in the age of Coronavirus
7 August 2020
International Beer Day 2020
IT'S a year like no other. After drought, bushfires and now in the grip of COVID-19 restrictions, Australians have earned a beer. It's been a long time between drinks for many of us, says Brewers Association of Australia CEO Brett Heffernan.
"Have we ever more looked forward to having a beer with mates? Perhaps, that's the message out of this International Beer Day. The appreciation of our usual way of life and the joy a schooner at the pub or a stubby around the barbie will bring when family and friends are reunited," he said.
"Usually we mark the first Friday in August, International Beer Day, by celebrating the economic and social contribution beer makes in Australia. Typically, our brewers drive around $16 billion in economic activity and support 13,500 direct jobs and 100,000 jobs throughout the supply chain. But it's a different story this year.
"While Australian-made beer remains a local manufacturing success, with 85% of all beer sold in Australia being made in Australia, the sector has been doing it tough, particularly in hospitality.
"The impact on the hospitality sector has been catastrophic with around 500,000 jobs lost. These are typically young people, working through uni and getting their start in work. Pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes have seen some $8.5 billion wiped from their sales.
"Our three major brewers – CUB, Lion and Coopers – have strived to support the hospitality sector, including crediting for returned kegs that cannot be sold during the first lock-down, free beer deliveries and two-for-one offers upon re-opening, and providing growlers to foster takeaway sales to keep pubs afloat.
"Still, so far, reclaimed kegs have resulted in more than 4.5 million litres of beer being poured down the drain.
"While volumes are down, breweries have instigated even higher production standards and social distancing measures to ensure ongoing production. It has been vital for our supply chain partners like the barley and hop growers, maltsters, packaging suppliers, truck drivers and others who rely on brewers' $1.8 billion a year spending on these goods and services.
"Even brewing by-products, like Vegemite and feed for the dairy and pig farmers, have been able to continue.
"With CPI in negative territory for the half-year, drinkers were served a reprieve from the usual August beer tax increase. It's bittersweet. While good that consumers have been spared the extra tax hit, the CPI fall is because the economy is tanking due to the pandemic.
"It would be better for the government to remove the ambiguity and uncertainty of future tax increases in February by freezing the excise rate for, at least, 12 months as part of the October Federal Budget. It will essentially cost nothing to do so, but will give brewers, publicans and consumers much-needed certainty when cost-of-living pressures and job losses are biting.
"Aussies still pay the fourth highest beer tax in the industrialised world.
"In Australian dollar terms, at $2.26 per litre, Aussies pay 15-times more than Spain ($0.15), 7-times more than the US ($0.31), 6-times more than Canada ($0.35), 4.5-times more than France and Italy ($0.50) and approaching double that of New Zealand ($1.26).
"In March, the Brits froze their beer tax at $1.52 to save local jobs. In April, Germany deferred its beer tax in response to COVID-19, moving from $0.13 to zero.
"Tax on Aussie-made beer reaps more than $2 billion a year for the Federal Treasury. That doesn't include the GST on the excise or the GST collected at the retail end, which comes in at another $1.5 billion.
"If you're raising a glass today, we can be grateful for much. There are many far worse off. And that beer will taste even better when we get to enjoy it in the company of family and friends. That's something to look forward to. We can all drink to that."
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20/8/2020 Time for a cold one as Heffernan bids farewell to Brewers
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23/7/2020 Dear beer