The introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol in Ireland before Northern Ireland would see the price of some beers and spirits here cost almost twice as much in the North, a drinks representative group has warned.
Recent research from Drinks Ireland, the Ibec sector representing alcohol drinks manufacturers and suppliers both north and south of the border, shows that a litre of Bombay Sapphire Gin cost €18.39 in ASDA in Enniskillen this weekend.
If minimum unit pricing was brought in in Ireland, the group says the same bottle of gin would cost more than €29 here.
An 18-pack of Bulmers cider currently costs €12.61 at another supermarket in Fermanagh, less than half of the €28.16 it would cost in Ireland under MUP.
Director of Drinks Ireland, Patricia Callan says that while the drinks industry is in favour of tackling the sale of cheap alcohol to reduce its misuse, a move to MUP isn’t warranted at present.
She says it is “imperative” that MUP be introduced at the same time in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“The massive price differential that would result from a unilateral move on MUP would drive many price-sensitive households, who have already been hard-hit by the pandemic, to shop across the border,” she said.
“It would also place massive pressures on border businesses, and lead to an increase in illicit alcohol smuggling at the border, all at a vulnerable time for our economy.”
The drinks industry is in favour of tackling the sale of cheap alcohol, but our position is that MUP should only be introduced in conjunction with Northern Ireland. pic.twitter.com/EOs6iqpLXI— Drinks Ireland (@DrinksIreland) April 25, 2021
Citing recent statistics, Ms Callan said alcohol consumption in Ireland reached its lowest level in three decades in 2020.
“Beyond alignment with Northern Ireland, the introduction of MUP is logistically very challenging for retailers and drinks manufacturers, so it’s important that a transition period of at least one year is provided to implement the measure, in line with other measures in the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018.
“In the context of this debate, it’s also important to highlight that alcohol consumption in Ireland declined last year by 6.6 percent to its lowest level in 30 years.
This fall, while accelerated by Covid-19 and the closure of the hospitality sector, is also in line with the fact that alcohol consumption generally is declining in Ireland," she said.
"The average consumption in 2020 was 29.8% lower than the peak of 2001."
Ms Callan said Irish businesses close to the border would be those most-heavily impacted by the early introduction of MUP in Ireland, as shoppers would be incentivised to travel north to save on their alcohol purchases.