Fake whiskey, vodka flood Zim

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - NEWS - Mtan­dazo Dube Leisure Ed­i­tor

THINK­ING of end­ing your week­end with a whiskey, brandy, rum or vodka? Think twice!

Il­le­gal dis­tri­bu­tion of liquor in Zim­babwe has seen a lot of knock-off brands en­ter the mar­ket. Most bot­tles are priced much lower than orig­i­nal prod­ucts, mak­ing them a hit with drinkers.

Last week, The Namib­ian news­pa­per re­ported that cus­toms of­fi­cials at Walvis Bay had seized and de­stroyed a haul of 95 000 bot­tles of coun­ter­feit John­nie Walker Red and Black La­bel whiskey, and Smirnoff vodka. The con­tra­band was Harare-bound. The con­tra­band, worth about N$20 mil­lion (nearly US$1,5 mil­lion), was al­legedly shipped from the United States via Dubai to the port of Walvis Bay.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, con­sum­ables such as al­co­hol, ci­garettes, cos­met­ics and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals are be­ing smug­gled to Africa, im­pact­ing neg­a­tively on both the econ­omy and health of cit­i­zens.

The Sun­day Mail spoke to il­le­gal al­co­hol dis­trib­u­tors and bar and night­club op­er­a­tors who ex­pressed di­ver­gent views on the im­i­ta­tions.

Devine As­sign­ments di­rec­tor Big­gie Chinop­erek­wei, who runs sev­eral night- clubs, said, “They are tak­ing busi­ness away from gen­uine tax-pay­ing busi­ness­peo­ple.

“The health of our cit­i­zens is also at risk. We won­der where some can­cers come from, yet there are prod­ucts like th­ese that do not un­dergo proper stan­dards mon­i­tor­ing.

“We urge drinkers to shun the il­le­gal deal­ers and buy from certified dis­trib­u­tors be­cause we only buy from gen­uine dis­trib­u­tors of th­ese prod­ucts. That is the best way to pro­tect one’s health and to put th­ese fraud­sters out of busi­ness.”

An il­le­gal al­co­hol dealer in Harare’s CBD, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, said it was rel­a­tively easy to dis­tin­guish be­tween gen­uine and fake stuff.

“On closer ex­am­i­na­tion of the bot­tles, you will no­tice things like mis-spellings and logo dif­fer­ences. The la­bels do not look quite right. The colour of the liq­uid some­times is not quite the same as oth­ers.

“Oth­ers also have froth, and cap seals are tem­pered with,” he said, adding, “As deal­ers, we have to pro­tect our­selves from copies be­cause once one client ex­poses you as a dis­trib­u­tor of fake stuff, you will be put out of busi­ness be­cause no one will buy from you.”

He went on: “The fake prod­ucts are there, there is noth­ing we can do about it be­cause they are cheaper and most peo­ple that buy them know this.”

A hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tive said he would do any­thing to get his hands on im­i­ta­tions, claim­ing they were cheaper and of the same qual­ity is gen­uine prod­ucts.

“The formula for mak­ing th­ese things is out there. Those prod­ucts you say are fake are ac­tu­ally the same as the prod­uct you say is gen­uine. The dif­fer­ence is the price only and, in some cases, spellings. They taste the same. I want the fake prod­uct; it is cheaper, and that means we make more money,” he as­serted.

While some drinkers we in­ter­viewed were wor­ried about the dan­gers of th­ese prod­ucts to their health, some fell back on the old “a beer is a beer” mantra.

Ac­cord­ing to whiskeyre­viewer.com, fake whiskey is on the rise all over the world, with coun­ter­feit­ers be­com­ing more so­phis­ti­cated by the day.

How­ever, just like pi­rated mu­sic or movies - the pop­u­lar­ity of th­ese coun­ter­feits indi­cates the strength of this in­dus­try.

For gen­uine busi­ness­peo­ple, it shows there is money to be made if they can find ways of re­duc­ing pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion costs.

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