Ouzo lovers left with bitter taste

Consumption of ouzo is expected to fall by at least 30 percent due to successive hikes to alcohol taxes introduced by the government recently in a bid to up state revenues. The sharp drop in consumption comes at a time where the sector is also suffering liquidity problems. The tax applied to alcoholic drinks is paid to the state by drinks producers within 30 days. However, the companies are paid for their products with bank checks that take 180 days to clear. This, in combination with banks having turned off the lending tap to businesses, means that 80 to 90 alcoholic drink distilleries may shut down by the end of the year. This is how the general secretary of the Federation of Greek Distillates and Spirits (SEAOP), Haris Mavrakis, described the state of the industry in a meeting with journalists yesterday. The sharp drop in consumption will mean that the state will collect less than half of expected revenues from the sector after the hikes in taxes, he said. As a result, the tax increases turn «what was recently a healthy export sector into one full of problems,» weighing in turn on the labor market, said Nikos Kaloyiannis, SEAOP’s president. More than 2,000 people are directly employed in the sector, with a total of 100,000 employees indirectly involved in the business in industries such as transport and the production of raw materials. The economic impact on the industry due to the drop in consumption is expected to have a negative impact on exports. Ouzo sales represent 68 percent of Greek drinks exported, with the main destination being Germany, which has doubled imports of Greek ouzo in the last six years to 17.3 million liters in 2008 from 9.4 million liters in 2003.