The Himachal Pradesh Cabinet on Monday approved the Excise Policy 2023-24 allowing the production of a new category of liquor by fermentation and distillation of fruits that would boost horticulture in the state.

Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, who presided over the meeting, gave approval for the auction-cum-tender of retail excise vends with an objective gaining adequate enhancement in government revenue, reduction in the price of liquor and curbing its smuggling from the neighbouring states.

While fruit wines and ciders were already being manufactured in the state, officials said this new addition would open avenues for the productive use of unsaleable fruits and increase income.

Bottling of imported wine in the wineries of the state has been allowed, which would ensure that bestselling high-range wine brands, will now be easily available to the customers.

The cabinet also approved auction-cum-tender of retail liquor vends in the state.

The BJP government, in the last five years, renewed the licence of vends with a 10 per cent increase in rate. But with this auction, revenue earning would see a 15 to 20 per cent rise, Industry Minister Harshwardhan Chauhan told reporters.

The policy also provides for the introduction of high-keg draught beer in retail vends with a capacity of 5 litre, benefiting the customers who would have more varieties of beer, according to a statement issued here.

In order to facilitate the horticulturists and to boost the economy, it has been decided to introduce a new category of liquor obtained by fermentation of fruits and their distillation or by blending.

To boost tourism it has been decided that the L-3, L-4, and L-5 licence holders will be allowed to have mini-bars for occupants in all rooms of three-star rated hotels and above.

Also an effective end-to-end online excise administration system will be set up that will include the facility of track and trace of liquor bottles besides other modules for real-time monitoring.

Excise Policy 2023-24 also allows the bottling of imported wine in the state to ensure easy availability of the best-selling range of wine brands. Also, mini bars would be allowed in all rooms of three-star hotels and above.

An effective, end-to-end online Excise Administration System would be set up in the state that would facilitate real-time monitoring of liquor bottles.

The policy has been framed taking into account suggestions from all stakeholders, including the government, consumers, retailers, wholesalers, bottling plants, distilleries and hotels and bars.

The Cabinet also decided to introduce Himachal Pradesh Water Cess on Hydropower Generation Bill, 2023, in the upcoming Assembly session.

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