Small breweries and local distilleries in Thailand are optimistic about their future if the Move Forward Party (MFP) forms a coalition government and implements changes to liberalize the alcohol industry, as promised. Due to the current strict laws and regulations controlling production and retailing, these businesses have found it difficult to survive in a heavily monopolized market.
MFP’s Plans for Liberalization
Taopiphop Limjittrakorn, the MFP’s MP in Bangkok’s Constituency 22 and a key advocate for liquor liberalization, told the Bangkok Post that the party would prioritize amending these laws to promote fair competition for small enterprises and break the liquor industry monopoly. Their initial steps would involve amending regulations on liquor production during the first week of the first parliamentary session. Longer-term goals include consensus-building on excise rate changes and loosening alcohol control rules.
Challenges Faced by Small Breweries
Supapong Pruenglampoo, co-founder of Sandport Brewery, a small craft brewery in Chatuchak district, claims that restrictive rules heavily favor large conglomerates. For instance, the system required applicants to have at least 10 million baht of registered capital and a minimum production capacity of 100,000 liters per year. Microbreweries are also taxed at the same high rate as big beer companies (22% of the retail price), despite having significantly higher production costs.
Enforcement of Laws and Opportunities
According to Thanakorn Tuamsa-ngiam, founder of Prachachon Beer, officials often penalize small business owners while overlooking the misdeeds of big companies. However, Mr. Thanakorn sees potential in the global trend of diversifying the alcohol industry. He believes that with support from authorities, Thailand could become a global hub for craft beer tourism, boosting the economy and tourism industry.
Support from Industry Stakeholders
Piti Bhirombhakdi, a director of Boon Rawd Brewery Ltd and part of the Singha Beer corporate empire, also supports MFP’s bid to liberalize the liquor industry. He believes that this policy will encourage the company to evolve, diversify, and adapt to the changing market landscape.
Balancing Economic Growth and Public Health Concerns
While stakeholders in the alcohol industry support the Move Forward Party’s policy, some medical experts are worried about the potential social impact of increased alcohol consumption if controls are loosened. Dr. Udomsak Saengow, director of the Research Institute for Health Sciences at Walailak University, highlights the importance of strict laws controlling the advertising and sale of alcohol to prevent adverse effects on public health and society from irresponsible drinking.