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Liquor Product Amendment Bill: Speaking Notes by Ms MR Semenya, Chairperson: PC Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

17 October 2017

Introduction

The Liquor Products Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Liquor Products Act, 60 of 1989 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act"). The Act provides for control over the sale and production for sale of certain alcoholic products, the composition and properties of such products and the use of certain particulars in connection with the sale of such products; amongst other purposes.

The Bill seeks to provide definitions and provide for further requirements in respect of the liquor products that are purposely intended to fall into the market for trade purposes. The objects of the Bill are to -

  • amend the Liquor Products Act, 1989 (Act No. 60 of 1989), so as to insert certain definitions and to amend and delete others;
  • to provide for the renaming and reconstitution of the Wine and Spirit Board and to limit its powers;
  • to provide for requirements regarding beer, traditional African beer and other fermented beverages;
  • to repeal a provision in respect of the authorisations regarding certain alcoholic products;
  • to empower the Minister to designate a person to issue export certificates;
  • to align certain provisions of the Constitution; to extend the Minister`s power to make regulations;
  • to provide gender-equal terminology, and to provide for matters connected therewith.

Background of the Amendment

Over the years, there have been various deficiencies identified in the Act, and these have necessitated the need for amendments. In this regard, in 2008, the Liquor Products Amendment Act of 2008 was published as an interim measure to address urgent amendments only. The Liquor Products Amendment Act was approved by Parliament and promulgated on 15 May 2009. Following the promulgation of the Act, an inclusive Liquor Products Advisory Forum (LPAF) was established. The LPAF was chaired by the DAFF and worked to review the Act with the purpose of addressing various deficiencies and loopholes, which existed in the Act. The current proposed amendments, therefore, embody a culmination of the extensive work and consultations.

Aspects being Amended

The Bill seeks to remedy several deficiencies in the Act such as:

  • A loophole exists in the Liquor Act, 2003 (Act No. 27 of 2003), which allows any liquor product labelled as beer or ale to be manufactured and sold. This has led to the proliferation and uncontrolled sale of sugar fermented beverages and other concoctions.
  • The scope of the Act currently only relates to liquor products with an alcohol percentage of more than 1 % vol. The Act is therefore not aligned with other international and national legislation, e.g. Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, which deals with foodstuffs with an alcohol content up to 0.5 % vol. A grey area exists relating to products with an alcohol content between 0.5 and 1.0 % volume, which falls outside the scope of both sets of legislation and therefore remain unregulated as a result.
  • Currently, alcoholic fruit beverage can only be made from the juice of the fresh fruit. The use of concentrate or reconstituted juice is not allowed. The definition of an alcoholic fruit beverage is therefore amended to allow the use of reconstituted juice
  • Severe limitations apply to specially authorised liquors like mead (honey beverage), sacramental alcoholic beverage and orange juice; and cane sugar fermented alcoholic beverage. Only producers that are historically qualified to produce these specially authorised liquors are allowed to produce these products currently. The total volume of production per annum is also restricted, which is an additional limitation that does not apply to other types of liquor products. These requirements exclude any new entrants to the market and also places unnecessary limitations on currently authorised producers.
  • Export control of liquor products is currently the sole responsibility of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The Act does not allow the Minister the power or discretion to outsource control over the exportation of liquor products, for instance in circumstances where there is a lack of resources, skills, etc. The requirements of the Act is therefore not in line with the requirements of the Agricultural Product Standards Act, which allows the Minister to outsource export control to a designated assignee.
  • There is currently also no requirement in the Act for the registration of persons as producers, blenders or fillers of liquor products. Therefore, currently, only the seller of the liquor products takes responsibility for the content of the liquor product concerned. The bottler of the product has no responsibility towards the product and is also not traceable in the production chain. This amendment aims to rectify the shortcoming by ensuring compulsory registration of bottlers. The powers of the Minister to make regulations regarding packaging standards and type of containers needs to be defined separately.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we must state that the inclusion of a definition for beer, traditional African beer and other fermented beverages under the scope of the Act will ensure that a clear definition exists for these products and that the loophole under the Liquor Act will be addressed. Department of Health will no longer have to evaluate the labels of these types of liquor products, as the composition, labelling, export and import certification will become the responsibility of Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The South African Police Services will have certainty that these products are indeed covered by legislation and will be able to act and prosecute when the Act is contravened, in contrast with the current situation where "ale" is sold unregulated. This will be beneficial to the consumers of these types of products; as there is no government department that is currently regulating the composition, food safety and quality of ale or beer. It is envisaged that the Liquor Products Amendment Bill will strengthen the regulatory framework for agricultural production, health, food safety and the sale of liquor products in the country.

     
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