Beer lovers in Delhi are facing a shortage of their favourite brands as many liquor shops do not have refrigeration facilities. Consumers have complained that popular beer brands are missing from the shelves and are being replaced with unknown brands.

A senior excise department officer said that there were no specific complaints about any beer brand missing at the shops, but the corporations have placed tenders for refrigerators which will soon be available. The shortage is caused by several factors, including the lack of captive production in Delhi and dependence on suppliers located in other states.

When supply is low, those states force the companies to cater first to the local demand to protect their taxes. Vinod Giri, director general of the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies, said that consumers in Delhi drink nearly 15 crore bottles of beer every year, with the demand skewed towards the three months of summer which accounts for nearly six crore bottles.

Giri listed several reasons for the shortage of popular beer brands, including the low margins in Delhi and during short availability, companies tend to direct supplies to more profitable markets. Some companies are hesitant to supply to government-owned shops due to compliance-related concerns, and in Delhi, all shops are owned by the government.

Under the current excise regime in Delhi, four undertakings of the Delhi government are engaged in retail liquor sale through more than 550 stores across the city. The lack of refrigeration facilities has led to a majority of consumers, many of them youngsters, returning empty-handed.

Limited stocking space and a low number of shops in the city also mean low total stock holding. Liquor industry sources said Delhiites gulped down 1.2 crore cases of beer last year, each containing 24 bottles or cans.

A customer standing outside a liquor shop near the DSIIDC office in Connaught Place expressed his frustration with the unavailability of their preferred beer brands. He remarked that the shops were selling unfamiliar brands that they had never heard of before.

Similarly, another customer in Laxmi Nagar complained that the liquor shops were not selling chilled beer anymore. He explained that he used to purchase a couple of bottles and consume them after returning home, but now the beer was being sold at room temperature.

There was no reaction from the corporations on the lack of refrigeration facility at the vends run by them. Officials refuted the complaints about popular brands missing from the shelves but admitted that tenders have been placed by corporations for refrigerators and chillers, and they will be available at the shops soon.

Many of the issues are related to the excise policy itself, and unless the policy is fixed, they are likely to persist, said Giri. There are also other issues that are rooted in other states and the Delhi government has limited ability to influence that, he added.

(With PTI inputs)

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