Mumbai: Tipplers can now buy their wine from any supermarket or walk-in store in Maharashtra, and will not have to go exclusively to liquor shops for the same. The state cabinet headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday approved the sale of wine in supermarkets or walk-in stores. Currently, wine is produced in the state from fruits, flowers and honey. Wineries will now be able to market their wines by selling them directly in supermarkets or in walk-in stores in a shelf-in-shop manner. The decision is expected to benefit small wineries and alternatively, farmers in the state.
However, these supermarkets and walk-in shops will be situated away from religious and educational institutions, as per the government policy. The cabinet decision led to a war of words between the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi and BJP.
After the meeting, NCP Minister Nawab Malik strongly justified the cabinet decision, saying the wine policy was being implemented mainly to benefit grape and other fruit farmers and boost the wine industry in the state. “The growth of the wine industry is important, as is a fair price to the farmers for their produce. The wine industry’s growth is also crucial for effective marketing. The wine can be sold from supermarkets or walk-in stores with a size of 100 sq m. In such supermarkets or shops, wine will be sold through locked cupboards,” he noted. The decision will allow winemakers to broaden their retail footprint in Maharashtra.
The government will charge per bulk litre a nominal excise duty of Rs 10 on all types of wine bottles. This will earn only Rs 5 crore in revenue for the state but will help the excise administration know the number of wine bottles sold in the market. The government has fixed an annual licence fee of Rs 5,000 for the sample E-4 license. However, such licences will not be issued in districts where the sale of liquor is banned.
Most wines have a low content of pure spirits, as compared to other liquors. Also, a large number of restaurants and bakeries use wine for food making.
Maharashtra has around 45 operational wineries. Of these, between 15 and 20 units directly market products, while the rest are only manufacturers.
The wine industry has a turnover of around Rs 1,000 crore in India, of which 65 per cent is from Maharashtra. Most wineries are located in Nashik, which produces around 80 per cent of India’s wine, followed by Sangli, Pune, Solapur, Buldana and Ahmednagar.
The current sale of 70 lakh litres per year in the state is expected to go up to 1 crore litres under the new liberalised policy for retail sale.
BJP slams MVA govt
BJP has slammed the Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s decision to allow the sale of wine in supermarkets, saying that the government is dedicated to drunkards.
Former CM Devendra Fadnavis declared that his party would not tolerate making Maharashtra a ‘madya rashtra’ (wine state).
He tweeted, “Alcohol is cheaper than petrol and diesel. Permission to sell alcohol after lifting ban. Decision to issue new liquor licences and now, the sale of wine in supermarkets and grocery stores.”
Former BJP minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said the MVA government had lifted the ban on liquor sale in Chandrapur and reduced excise duty to 150 per cent from the earlier 300 per cent on imported foreign liquor. He taunted that wine should be served in cabinet meetings instead of tea, if the government were concerned about farmers.
The leader of the opposition in the state council, Pravin Darekar, claimed that the state government was concerned about drunkards and not about the future generation which would be severely affected by the decision.
However, NCP minister Malik defended the state cabinet decision saying that farmers engaged in the production of fruits needed for wine would benefit. He countered the BJP’s allegations saying that a similar policy prevailed in BJP-ruled Goa, Himachal Pradesh and other states. The Maharashtra cabinet had approved a policy on similar lines, he said.