For once, we won’t be able to blame a ‘Dry January’ on the booze ban. However, South Africans face an anxious wait to see if supply chain disruptions in crucial markets will lead to an alcohol shortage in the weeks ahead.

As reported by Bloomberg, Consol recently suspended the construction of a R1.5 billion production plant in SA. But their woes stretch far beyond the building site.

Is South Africa facing an alcohol shortage?

The largest glass manufacturing company in Africa is now facing a myriad of logistical challenges. Consol, who have been battling to operate to the best of their ability throughout the pandemic, now find themselves overstretched.

The glass merchants are emerging from four separate waves of COVID-19, which included lengthy and devastating lockdowns. And yes, their peril WAS exacerbated by Mzansi’s on-and-off liquor bans.

It was feared that the Omicron variant of the virus could push us back to square one, but as we learned last month, the highly transmissible strain is largely responsible for milder outcomes in those who get infected.

What may cause a potential alcohol shortage?

With Consol getting the green light to operate as normal, it’s a directive that is perhaps easier said than done. The glass producers have slowed down their output, and ramping up to pre-pandemic levels is proving to be difficult.

According to one executive, they are at the mercy of several major issues:

  • The pandemic disruption has left them with ‘reduced stock’.
  • Global shipment delays are holding up Consol’s acceleration plans.
  • Soaring freight rates, meanwhile, mean that importing bottles is now a trickier process.
  • Customer tastes have changed, with more ‘premium purchases’ skewing the supply chain.
  • Demand has now officially exceeded the ability to produce at Consol – this could take months to fix.

How bad will things get?

It’s not clear how badly this would impact South Africa, its liquor supply, and millions of thirsty customers. Consol say the issues could persist ‘for the foreseeable future’, implying that this situation may rumble on for months, not weeks.

However, an alcohol shortage wouldn’t cripple the liquor industry in the same way blanket bans did. Some products will likely be out of stock for long periods of time, but booze is likely to remain readily available.

If you’re not fussy, you’ll probably be fine. But that may not be the case for those with pickier palates.

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