The Ministry of Finance and Economy and the ruling coalition parties agreed that from 2000 the tax rate on soju will be raised from 35 per cent to 80 per cent. This tax hike will increase the retail price of a 360ml bottle of soju from US58 cents to US78 cents. Sales of soju are expected to fall by 13 per cent. The ministry and the government also agreed to lower the tax rate on whisky from 100 per cent to 80 per cent and to gradually bring down the rate on beer from 130 per cent to 120 percent in 2000. Further rate cuts on beer are expected in 2001 (110%) and in 2002 (100%). Soju brewers have strongly opposed the tax reforms, saying that many soju brewers will face bankruptcy if the rate is raised by more than 10 per cent..

Kirin Brewery Co. and Anheuser Busch Co. signed a new contract which allows both brewers to share equally in the profits from Japanese sales of Budweiser. The contract is somewhat atypical as licensees usually receive a much smaller share in licensed production. Anheuser-Busch made the concession to give Kirin a stronger incentive to promote the product and increase sales. The original contract between Kirin and Anheuser-Busch dates back to1993 but will be liquidated by March due to mounting debt. Kirin Brewery Co. expects to post ¥64 billion in pre-tax profits for the year ended December 1999, up 6 per cent on the previous year. The increase, however, is mainly attributed to the company’s restructuring efforts. Sales are expected to drop about 1 per cent to ¥1,130 billion..

Although Germany has not succeeded yet in following the WHO’s recommendation to reduce per capita alcohol consumption to 2 litres annually - Germans on average still drink 10 litres of alcohol - the decline in alcohol consumption across the board in recent years has made health advocates cautiously optimistic. In its annual report, the German Agency Against the Dangers of Addiction, lists the government’s revenue from alcohol consumption at DM7.1 billion (US$3.75 billion) in 1998. The costs of alcohol abuse are estimated at DM60 billion (US$31.7 billion). For comparison, revenues from smoking are DM20 billion (US$10.5 billion), costs are DM80 billion (US$42.3 billion).
The issue communicated by members of the prevention community is not a NO to alcohol as such..

The Chairman and President of the Philippines’ Social Security System, Carlos Arellano, who also sits on the San Miguel Corp. board, announced that the Philippine food and beverage group was wanting to expand its brewing interests in China. According to Arellano, San Miguel was looking at a number of potential partners in the mainland, well aware that many of them are loss making. However, there was a possibility of turning them around with the help of a strategic partner. There was no mention of names. San Miguel beer is produced in the mainland in three San Miguel Corp. joint ventures.

According to AC Nielsen’s China Millennium Report, beer brands vary widely across cities. Each city market has a favourite label and, for many, it is a local brand. The survey found that half the people in urban China consumed beer in the "past three months". Seventy per cent of these were male and 30 per cent were female drinkers. Beer consumption was found to be highest in Fuzhou (69%), Qingdao and Beijing (62%) and Shenyang (59%), and the lowest in Nanjing and Wuhan (44%). Table

At the end of January, Southcorp, Lion Nathan and United Distillers & Vintners, three of Australia’s leading alcoholic beverage producers, have formed a joint venture to provide a business-to-business e-commerce service for Australia’s AUS$70 billion hospitality and retail liquor industry. The company, Artesian Innovation (www.artesian.com.au) is owned equally by the three partners and will pilot an online liquor trading and information service, servicing about 3,000 Sydney restaurants. The service will be offered nationally within months. Southcorp will extend the concept to its operations in the USA and is investigating other Internet activities. In the domestic market, Southcorp has approximately 40 per cent of wine, Lion Nathan 40 per cent of beer and UDV 40 per cent of spirits sales.

Visitors to Sydney pubs this year should expect to have their grey matter challenged by the locals. Playing "pub trivia" seems to be the latest change in Australian pub culture. Gone are the days when people had a quiet one at the bar. These days they sit poised over blank sheets of paper with sharpened pencils in their hands, listening attentively to the questions. Trivia prizes are modest. The whole point seems to be to get people talking to each other again. Some clever ones have already made a business out of this development. White Lightning Entertainment which organises regular trivia nights for about 40 pubs has a pool of more than 130 hosts to draw from.

The joke is beyond our comprehension. Who drinks a drop of beer only? Whatever the reason, Sydney’s Malt Shovel Brewery decided to offer Australian beer lovers a good drop of a Belgian style wheat beer (5% ABV). It is a slightly cloudy beer brewed with a large proportion of unmalted wheat in addition to malted barley. Infusions of orange peel and coriander enhance the flavour. The wheat beer is to be served with a slice of orange or poured over ice. Being a seasonal beer, there was a limited release in November.n

The Australian Soft Drink Association (ASDA) is lobbying the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) to limit the total level of caffeine from all sources in the energy drinks category. ANZFA presently looks into an application from Austrian energy drink manufacturer Red Bull which would limit direct caffeine but would leave the door open for more to be added in the form of guarana. ASDA is seeking a caffeine limit in energy drinks of 300 mg/kg which it says is approximately equivalent to 83 mg in a 250 ml single serve drink or about the same level of caffeine as in a cup of instant coffee. The present
maximum legal limit of caffeine in soft drinks at 145 mg/kg is below world cola manufacturing practice of about 200 mg/kg. Speaking of which..

As mandatory labelling for genetically modified foods is estimated to cost Australia’s food industry AUS$3 billion in the first year and AUS$1.5 billion each year thereafter, Australian and New Zealand Health Ministers have deferred making any decision on its implementation. The deferment means that labels will not reach the supermarket shelves until next year.
The proposed regulation would require companies to determine the GM status of each ingredient, additive and pro-cessing aid used in their products to accurately declare whether their products "do contain...", "may contain ..." or "do not contain..." GM ingredients. The British government has outlawed the commercial cultivation of GM crops for three years during which time further farm-scale tests on the crops will be continued.

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