Drinking in the New Year

By Aster Mengesha, Addis Fortune

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – As has been his custom during past holidays, Taye Befirdu, a 37-year-old husband and father of one, was queuing up in front of the National Alcohol & Liquor Factory outlet at Mexico two days ahead of the New Year for his favourite drink, ouzo – Nech Arake.

“Besides food and other commodities, there is also a big demand for liquors during holidays,” Taye said, buying two bottles for 104 Br, a price which he found to be the same as the year before.

National, a state-owned factory, and the privately-owned Bale Zaf Alcohol & Liquors Factory, which is located around Piazza on the way to Sebara Babur, along Arbegnoch Street, are the major liquor producers. The two factories have 11 similar products; National makes six more liquor varieties. The varieties preferred by most customers include Ouzo, Super Mint, Lemon, Dry Gin, Pineapple and Aperitif, according to Tesfaye Mehari, distribution coordinator at National. His company distributes its products on 12 routes in Addis Abeba using its own trucks.

Helen Alebel, salesperson at Winter Palace Liquor Distributor is seen showing her customers different kinds on liquors and their prices in the store (Photo: Addis Fortune)
Helen Alebel, salesperson at Winter Palace Liquor Distributor is seen showing her customers different kinds on liquors and their prices in the store (Photo: Addis Fortune)

Bale Zaf also use their own trucks for distribution.

Both factories sell 890cc liquors for 67 Br, if the customers come with no empty bottle of their own in exchange, or 52 Br if they offer an empty bottle. The 250cc is sold for 25 Br, and customers do not need to bring empty bottles.

These were the same prices which Taye and other customers had to pay last year. A year ago, however, the prices for the 890cc were 58 Br or 48 Br. Prices are now nine Birr more expensive for those who pay for the liquor and the bottle, and just four Birr more expensive for those who come with their bottles to exchange.

This year, the long queue seen at National’s outlet was not to be seen at Bale Zaf’s.

“The market is not as we expected it to be, but we expect more customers to come by this afternoon and tomorrow,” said one of the salesmen at Bale Zaf on Tuesday.

Moges Niguse, a grocery owner, was putting two boxes of Ouzo, Nech Arake, in his car, each containing 15 bottles. He always comes here to buy liquor. His business would be open for customers on New Year Day, although he expected less customers as he felt most people would be at home.

There were groceries in other areas, such as Bole, selling a bottle of liquor made by the two factories for 80 Br with the bottle and 100 Br to 120 Br without the bottle. The 250cc bottle, they were selling for 40 Br.

Customers to the Jenet Grocery & Restaurant around Saris mostly bought Nech Arake for the holiday for their own consumption and as gift for neighbours and relatives, according to owner Fekade Argaw. He expected more business for the holiday and had increased his supply by about a fifth. He also sold imported liquors, charging 800 Br for Red Label whisky, 1,400 Br for Black Label and 1,600 Br for Chivas Regal.

“The market for imported liquors is the same as it was on normal days,” added Fekade.

Winter Palace Liquor Distributor imports 91 brands of liquors from suppliers in Dubai and South Africa, which it distributes from two stores at Bole, Cameroon Street, and near Atlas Hotel along Ghana Street. Its major brand is the Russian vodka, Winter Palace.  The Company is selling NEDERBURG for 757.50 Br, Cellar Cask 557.51 Br, Tall Horse 160 Br and Two Oceans 150 Br, according to Danny Davis, a senior vice president for Sales and Marketing at the Company.

The Company also sells local wines made by Castel Winery plc, in Eastern Shoa, Zeway, Oromia region, whose brands include Rift valley and Acacia. Castel Winery was established in 2007 by the Castel Group, a French based wine maker, and BGI international. It started marketing the two brands in March 2014.

“Starting from last week, we sell more than 200 bottles a day of both Rift Valley and Acacia wines for 160 Br and 145 Br a bottle,” says Helen Alebel, salesperson at Winter Palace’s store. “As the Company is an exclusive agent importer for Winter Palace, we are selling 500 to 600 bottles a day this week; it was only 300 to 400 bottles during normal days.”

The price for Acacia in retail Groceries is 160Br and Rift Valley is sold for 170  Br to 176 Br, according to Setegn Alemu, bartender at Donchista Bar & Restaurant, located around Atlas Hotel on Mickey Leland Street. Setegn was waiting for the holiday with almost twice as many of every kind of liquor. And some of his customers include people like Hailu Werkagegnehu, 47 and single, who prefers celebrating the holidays “with my friends going out and drinking”.

Awash Winery also made advance preparations for the New Year by producing 200,000 extra bottles. It sells most of its wines, including Axumite, Awash and Camilla for  66 Br, and the Gouder wines for 35 Br, with plans to produce more of these wines in the current year.

Even without holidays, Ethiopia is spending increasingly more to import alcohol, registering a growth from 205 million Br in 2009 to 871 million Br in 2013.

Source: Addis Fortune