Deputy minister: Avoid counterfeit liquor

Head of corporate affairs of Heineken Malaysia Berhad Shagivranam G. Ratnam (right) and Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Deputy Minister Chong Chieng Jen (centre) during a press conference in Kuching March 23, 2019. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
Head of corporate affairs of Heineken Malaysia Berhad Shagivranam G. Ratnam (right) and Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Deputy Minister Chong Chieng Jen (centre) during a press conference in Kuching March 23, 2019. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, March 23 — Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Deputy Minister Chong Chieng Jen today asked beer drinkers to help fill up the national coffers by going for only genuine products.

He said for every litre of beer they consume they pay certain percentage of tax to the government.

“Let us enjoy our beer, and at the same time, we contribute to the national coffer,” he told reporters after the launch of an awareness campaign on the consumption and sale of illicit beer here.

He said consumption of illicit beer over a long period of time is bad for health, such as causing liver cancer.

Chong explained that the quality of illicit beer is doubtful because there is no way to verify its origins, unknown names of manufacturers and questionable process of fermentation.

“We are consuming illicit beer at our own risk,” he said, adding that there is no “official” record of people died after consuming such beer in Sarawak.

“The only record that the Health Department has is that many people die of liver cancer and drinking illicit beer over time may be one of the causes,” he said.

Chong said the federal government has taken steps to curb the sales of illicit in the country after the death of 40 people in Peninsular Malaysia after consuming illicit alcohol.

Senior assistant director of the state Customs Department Austin James, who was present at the press conference, said it is difficult for the department’s enforcement officers to stop the smuggling of illicit beer in the state.

“In our case, smugglers would use river estuaries, unregistered jetties, coastal areas and in the open seas to bring in the beer.

“We have identified Sarikei and Bintulu as the main spots through which the smugglers bring in illicit beer in Sarawak,” he said.

Head of corporate affairs of Heineken Malaysia Berhad Shagivranam G. Ratnam said about three million hectolitres of beer are consumed yearly in Malaysia.

“We at Heineken sell about 1.3 million hectolitres of beer while Carlsberg Brewery Malaysia sells around 700,000 to 800,000 hectolitres a year.

“But the rest of about one million hectolitres are illicit beer,” he said, adding that 30 per cent of the illicit beer is sold in Peninsular Malaysia while the remaining 70 per cent in Sarawak and Sabah.

Shagivranam said ridiculously low price of illicit beer is among the reasons why people in Sarawak and Sabah go for illicit beer of various brands and origins, like Cambodia, Vietnam, Brazil and Argentina.

He said one easy way to identify the genuine beer is to look at the bar code which starts with the figures “ 9 55” for both Heineken, Carlsberg and Tiger beers, indicating that they are the products of Malaysia.

“If you don’t see the figures on the bar code , then the beer is fake or illicit,” he said.