By Chingakham Dina and Arambam Karamjit
Wine and alcohol is as old as the history of human being. It is dated back to 10,000 BC. It has history that meitei as well as other communities drank alcohol but the adoption of Vaishanavism by meiteis changed their food habit and stopping drinking at least openly (Iboyaima Laithangbam;The Hindu,October 27, 2014). Almost all countries and communities produce alcohol, wine and whisky.
Rice whisky also knows as Yu and rice beer of Manipur has different peculiar taste. Other countries also produce rice whisky. The harm from alcohol consumption is widely perceived without any further explanation. People’s mentality and perception is different from one community or culture. In other countries, the government and the people trap the opportunity of economic benefit, income generation and employment generation from alcohol industry. We also can take this opportunity by implementing new alcohol policy. Now in Manipur people’s contribution as tax to the govt. is not enough to run the government. We are always dependent to central govt. We cannot wait money from Central government all time. Our chief minister, MLAs and other business minded people can see the scope of alcohol industry and came forward to adopt a new policy about alcohol and whisky production, export to other States or to foreign countries. We are still in controversy to decide whether to allow license or not now. Thailand took this opportunity 82 years ago by issuing license for alcohol industry in 1933. They are very much advance in their business. They know the benefit and harm of alcohol but they do not underestimate huge income, revenue, job creation from the industry Business comes first in their head. On the contrary we are facing dilemma of identity, uncertainty about our own food and drink.
How much revenue Thailand collect from alcohol?
In 2009, Thai government collected 86,975 million Thai baht as alcohol tax (Dr. Areepong Bhoocha-oom, Director General Royal Thai Excise Department). They collected 133.06 billion Thai baht in 2011. This amount is roughly equal to 266 billion Indian Rupee (or Rs 26600 crores). There was a significant increase in tax revenue in two years time. This income does not count the profit made by alcohol manufacturing companies, employees’ income, benefits on farming, supply chain’s business, incomes of individual bars, vendors etc.
Who make alcohol and beer from rice?
We are not the only producer of rice Whisky and rice beer. Lao khao of Thailand, Lao-lao of Laos, Bau Da of Vietnam, Yuk Bing Shiu Jiu of China are some examples. Bau Da of Vietnam has similar color and flavour like Manipur’s rice whisky. All these countries try to promote their local whisky and beer product for commercial purpose to support people and to generate state income. Andro, Sekmai, Phayeng, khurkhuand and other Lois and chakpa villages who are categorized as schedule caste and different communities of schedule tribes still maintains their food culture since time immemorial. These communities produce alcohol as part of their culture and related to ritual function and ceremony but other communities changed food and drink babit after Vaishanavism adoption. If we closely look into, there are many more communities and villages that produce whisky and rice beer in Manipur.
How much is our alcohol consumption level?
Many civil society organizations, clubs, womenfolk, people who are concerned about health always give very reasonable warning and argument about the possible health problem related to alcohol consumption. Their advice is always valuable and eye opener for the society and their contribution. Here is the fact about alcohol consumption in litre per head per year. Belarus is the no.1 country where people consume highest amount of alcohol in the world. In 2010, their consumption rate is 17.5 litre per head. This year, 2015 she stands second position with 17.1 litre per head and Moldova became no.1 with 17.4 litre per head in 2015. In 2010 India was at 119th position of alcohol consumption level with 4.3 litre per head but this year, 2015 India’s consumption level is higher with 4.6 litre per head (Source: Wikipedia, WHO report, 2014).
Why do we need support for our local product?
It is a matter of business, income, and employment. We have seen numerous civil societies came forward to ban local product. The government had announced Manipur as dry state but it is known fact that almost everywhere we can buy, we can drink local whisky or foreign liquor, beer, wine etc. Every function, social gathering, and at party, people drink even though Manipuris are not open to the subject. It is available everywhere, accessible to anyone. Ban has not been successful and it is beyond possible. Drinks are associated with culture and ceremony in some areas. So, how could you ban a cultural related food of other community because of what you are not part of it or you don’t like it. Then why don’t we change our move, strategy and look from different perspective to bring more income, more job for the whole state and for the individual like what Thailand is doing -just to highlight the situation.
Present scenario of whisky making in Manipur
Let us calculate the reality behind the scene of whisky making in Manipur. How much money can a whisky maker earn from this profession at present now? The amount of whisky extracted and the price of whisky are different from one village to another. However profit margin is more or less the same in Sekmai, Andro or Khurkhul etc. Raw materials are rice, firewood, hamei (yeast) and water. In this research, we calculate raw material, price, and final output based on production at Sekmai.
On an average, a woman can produce about 45 litre of whisky from 50 kg of rice per day using traditional method.
Amount of rice used to extract whisky =50kg
Amount of firewood used to produce final product =50 kg
Total expenditure on rice (Rs25/kg)———- 50X25 =Rs 1250
Total expenditure on firewood (Rs 6/kg)—–50×6 =Rs 300
Total amount on hamei (yeast)—————– =Rs 50
Grand total expenditure =Rs 1600
Total value from 45 litres of whisky (Rs 45/litre)—45×45 =Rs 2025
So, Net profit is———————- Rs2015-Rs1600 =Rs 425
In order to get net profit Rs 425, the labour works around 8 hours. Net profit per hour is Rs 53.12.
This is very low profit margin for those whisky maker. But in a state where unemployment is unimaginably high, this is another option for employment. We are sure there might be hundreds of thousand who cannot earn this amount of money in Manipur.
How can we make better profit margin?
Current price of local alcohol in Manipur is Rs30-50 per litre. Here is price list of different brands.
(Source: Tesco Lotus shopping mall, Thailand. 24 Dec,2015. All prices are converted roughly equivalent to Indian Rupee)
Johnnie Walker Black Label 500 ml Rs 1770
Johnnie Walker Red Label 1000 ml Rs 1718
Johnnie Walker Meridian 700 ml Rs 430
Sierra Tequila 700 ml Rs 1718
Wild Turkey (Bourbon) 750 ml Rs 2478
Mekhong (Thailand brand) 750 ml Rs 840
Sangsom (Thailand brand) 750 ml Rs 550
Yu or Kalei (Manipur) 1000 ml Rs 30-50
From the above price list, government needs to control and increase the price so that the local whisky maker will benefit more from it. Not only this, it will control the local consumer to some extent if the price is increased.
What benefits are behind alcohol industry?
The argument of destroying rice under alcohol making is undeniable fact. But the truth is, it is making another value added product. From iron raw material car makers convert iron to car and he gets profit out of the raw material by putting his skill, make a brand new product and value added so on so forth. Same thing in alcohol industry. Rice is used but not destroyed without any purpose, converted to new product, get more value added to the product. Income, job, tax-revenue, animal rearing using the byproduct of the industry are underlying benefits from alcohol industry.
How many jobs could be generated in alcohol industry in Manipur?
There are 4702 families in Andro, Sekmai, Khurkhul and Phayeng all together in these four villages according to 2011 census. From these families, there are roughly 10,000 women who have skill of whisky and local beer making. In these communities, menfolk also knew the skill that family women are doing in whisky making. However men usually do not participate in whisky and local beer making profession. If we add another roughly estimated number of men in these villages, the number who have this skill will be around 20,000. Whisky and beer making also generate other job as well. The remaining byproduct after whisky distillation is one of the best food for pig. It can mix with fodder to feed cow. Chicken and ducks can be fed out of the remaining byproduct from the industry. This will provide jobs to skilled farmers who have studied veterinary or agriculture who want to establish modern method of farming. For example, in Sekmai, a women who brews local beer and whisky can rear of pig on an average from 10 to 20 from the byproduct of whisky making. In Thailand wine industry boosts the grape farming in Saraburi and Phuket province as an unprecedented wave of farming due to alcohol industry. In Manipur too, if the government manage this industry in a proper way, it will provide large number of jobs, income, revenue for the government. It is also another strategy for government to lessen the burden of waiting only the help from Delhi. We estimated about 20,000 jobs from only four villages mentioned before it the industry is managed properly. There are more villages that have whisky making skills. Our youths want jobs and income unlike previous generation when father of the family will support whole family. Every family member works in Hong Kong, in Singapore, and in Thailand as well. Work and job is compulsory everywhere unlike whole family depend on father’s income in Manipur. This industry will provide minimum 1 lakh job easily in Manipur. The skills are already ready up to the extent of employ-ability. No other training is required for this huge workforce population.
How to control alcohol business?
We have done enough to ban and to control by civil societies and by excise department. We have seen that it doesn’t work. One family member went out to burn whisky and to destroy on the street and on the otherhand one member from the same family is partying with different kinds of whisky and foreign liquor. We could bring this total dilemma and transform to economic changes. Thai, Japanese, French, English, German or any whisky or wine making countries are not victim of their own art of wine making. This brings too much economy and employment facilities. They produce, they promote, and they make money while we are still fighting about it where Thailand has started nearly one century years’ ago. We buy, our people drink. Our money goes to support foreign liquor and foreign economy. Despite of announcing dry state we never stop drinking. Legalization will minimize the curiosity of people and it indirectly will change people’s drinking behaviour. Increase the price of alcohol with well design tax-revenue system. Bring the money to government for public work and development.
What policy from government and civil society?
Government started discussion about giving license. This is good move. Civil societies lobby people against it. We, people never change our perspectives. Some people see the policy as destroyer of our community. Only few people have seen the possible transformation of economic benefit from the industry. If you can control your family from touching alcohol we will succeed on banning alcohol. We don’t need to go out and burn whisky on the road. Change will come only from our family. But the history of struggle to ban whisky has not shown any sign of success. People are not convinced to stop drinking. People’s appetite on food, thirst on drink will never go down as other countries around the world. Numerous incidents proved it is not possible to ban. Whether you ban it or not, still people don’t stop, then why don’t we look another angle of management. Just by changing our mindsets we can bring job, income, and revenue in an unprecedented way like the one seeing in another countries. Here is the thing we can do like in another countries:
Roles of government
- Government should issue license openly. It will generate job and revenue so that we will not wait only Delhi as our source of annual budget.
- Required license for bar or restaurant that serves alcohol. Collect tax systematically so that police should not harass business owner for extortion as side income from local business owners.
- Issue license and have the alcohol transporters carry the license ID card everywhere with them when they deliver alcohol. Do it in professional attitude so that carrier should not be harassed again for extracting pocket money.
- Provide breathe analyzer to police to check if there is suspicious of traffic rules violator with unacceptable alcohol level. Again be sincere from the authority’s side. Otherwise people will not believe on authority.
- Permit license to sell alcoholic to customer during specific hours in a day. In Thailand you cannot buy alcohol until 5 pm even though there is alcohol in the shop. Adjust our timing of selling for example from 4pm to 3am according to the suitability of our state.
- Don’t let anyone walk drunk on the street. Impose the rules strictly.
- Focus foreign countries or other states as our target market and clients.
- Control adulteration of alcohol.
- Control alcohol price.
Roles of Civil society
- Help to check the government rule implement successfully.
- Inform to authority if someone violates the rule.
In this way we can get more income, more tax, more job and finally the tax you and I pay to government will contribute to road construction, electric supply, water supply, investment in education, healthcare etc. which is very much needed in our society.
Chingakham Dina, Working at Pathumwiali School, Pathumthani Thailand. Also taught in Cambodia / Can be reached at chingakham(at)yahoo(dot)com
Arambam Karamjit, Teacher SKN School, Nonthaburi, Thailand/Former Retail Outlet Manager, Hang Ten Co Ltd, Singapore / Can be reached at ronin9992008(at)gmail(dot)com