The country’s largest brewers sound the alarm as stocks of industrial salt, a key ingredient in beer production, run dry.
Brewers blame a recent decision by the Trade Ministry obliging them to obtain industrial salt from the newly-established Afar Mining Corporation for the shortages. They have filed complaints with the Ministry of Industry, warning they are on the verge of halting production unless the supply of salt resumes immediately.
Brewers require iodized (industrial) salt to ensure the water they use to make their beer is clean.
“Our company has been surviving on a five-month stockpile because we haven’t been able to secure this vital raw material from the open market,” a representative of one of the large brewers told The Reporter. “Without a swift resolution from the government, many beer companies are teetering on the brink of closure.”
Communications officers at a number of brewers confirmed to The Reporter they have been working to resolve the impasse. Government officials, too, acknowledge the problems.
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“We understand the persisting challenge brewery companies are facing in accessing industrial salt. We are working to solve the issue,” said Heran Gerba, director-general of the Ethiopian Food and Drug Authority (EFDA).
Iodized salt is indispensable. Without clean water, the quality, flavor, and longevity of the beer could be compromised, according to the brewery companies.
The EFDA had previously warned about the potential repercussions for manufacturing sectors reliant on iodized salt, such as beer, textiles, and leather, prior to the directive’s approval, according to Heran.
The Director-General says the warnings went unheeded, and observes the situation underscores the importance of proactive engagement and foresight in regulatory decision-making.
The largest brewers (BGI, Heineken, and Habesha) are facing the brunt of the shortages.
Previously, brewers and other industries had been procuring salt from independent and artisanal salt miners and suppliers based almost exclusively in the Afar Regional State. No less than a dozen mining companies and 20 distributors were involved in the business until recently.
But new decision passed by Ministry of Trade and Regional Integration (MoTRI) recently, obliges brewers and other industries to procure industrial salt from the state-owned Afar Mining Corporation – virtually monopolizing the commodity.
The Corporation was recently established under the Afar regional government, while the private entities previously involved in the industrial salt trade were debarred for allegedly operating without a permit to supply manufacturers.
The Corporation has been unable to provide a steady supply of salt, according to brewers.
The limitations, sources told The Reporterare down to a lack of washing machinery at the Corporation’s processing plants.
However, MoTRI’s decision leaves brewers to grapple with salt shortages while Ministry of Industry officials look to find a solution. The challenges are substantial but brewers say they are determined to work with the authorities to navigate the crisis and ensure the continued viability of the Ethiopian beer industry.
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