ECONOMYNEXT – The manufacture of moonshine has spiked in Sri Lanka as a nation-wide indefinite curfew slapped to contain COVID-19 was in its third week, officials said.
With a blanket ban on the manufacture and sale, there were reports of illicit distilleries mushrooming across the island to fill the void left by the ban on legitimate spirits, police and excise officials said.
“We have set up five special units to carry out raids during the lockdown,” Excise Deputy Commissioner Kapila Kumarasinghe said. “We are making detections despite a staff shortage.”
“Given Sri Lanka’s consumption patter there is a big demand that is not met by any legal sources right now. We know that people have set up small units to distill spirits in their own kitchens.”
Kumarasinghe said excise inspectors were also unable to carry out surprise raids given the risk of contracting the Coronavirus that has claimed six lives and infected at least 188 by Wednesday evening.
However, two supermarkets have been sealed after they were caught surreptitiously selling liquor through a backdoor during the curfew, Kumarasinghe said.
In the meantime, super markets and online retailers also reported an unusual run on sugar which is used as a key ingredient in the manufacture of illegal spirits better known as kasippu.
Making kasippu has been a long-held tradition in many parts of the country, but the unprecedented curfew has triggered demand exponentially with the complete shutting down of all legal channels of supplies.
Even tourist hotels have been barred from selling liquor even to the few foreign guests who remain in the island.
“The demand is such that alcohol is sold at four times the normal price,” a police official said. “We are deploying our units to help excise officials to carry out raids during the curfew.”
Sri Lanka imposed an indefinite curfew on March 20.
Police on Wednesday extended till April 30 the curfew passes issued to those involved in maintaining essential services, indicating that the lock down could drag for longer. (COLOMBO, April 9, 2020)