South African Breweries (SAB) said on Monday it was cancelling R5-billion ($290-million) of planned investments as a result of revenue losses sustained during a near three-month ban on alcohol sales during the coronavirus crisis.

The South African drinks industry has been among the hardest hit by restrictions, which included a ban on the sale of alcohol to the end of May.

The ban was then reinstated last month to free up space in hospitals burdened by what officials said were avoidable alcohol-related injuries, as the video below outlines:

“The cancellation of this planned expenditure is a direct consequence of having lost 12 full trading weeks, which effectively equates to some 30% of SAB’s annual production,” SAB Vice-President of Finance Andrew Murray said.

More job cuts on the cards

The sector has already cut 118 000 jobs and projections show that a nine-week ban now will cost another 84 000 and R15.5-billion in GDP, said Richard Rushton CEO of Distell, which makes wines, spirits and ciders.

SAB, owned by the world’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, said it had cancelled R2.5-billion planned expenditure for this financial year, while the other half for the next financial year remains under review.

Investments being considered by SAB included upgrades to operating facilities and systems, as well as the installation of new equipment at selected plants, it added.

Government urged to reconsider alcohol ban

SAB has since called on government to reconsider the alcohol ban.

The company says it does not believe the legal sale of alcohol and beer is the primary contributor to the rising rate of COVID-19 infections.

It neither believes it has proven to contribute to the spike in trauma cases in hospitals.

SAB says it shares government’s concerns regarding the rise in coronavirus cases, but adds that the ban will increase illicit alcohol trade.

Ban sees spike in bottle sore break-ins

There has been another spike in bottle store break-ins in the Western Cape.

Several bottle stores around Cape Town and on the Cape Flats have been vandalised, with large amounts of alcohol stolen:

-Additional reporting by SABC News.