PETALING JAYA - There is an influx of cheap foreign beer in the market and it may be costing the country up to RM250mil (S$98.1 million) in lost taxes annually.
Industry sources claim that beer with high alcohol content from Thailand, the Philippines, China and Europe have flooded the market and are being sold at almost half the price of locally-produced beer at coffeeshops, convenience stores, medical halls and even some established supermarkets here.
The low prices and easy availability have made the brew attractive to all beer consumers, particularly the lower income group, such as labourers and migrant workers. It is learnt that consumers are switching from locally-produced beer to compounded hard liquor because of the high price of local beer due to high excise duties.
"The supply of cheap foreign beer, with a higher-than-average alcohol volume, has increased five-fold in the past five to seven years. In the past, such beer could be found in smaller sundry shops in suburban areas, and stocked at the rear of the stores.
"But recently, the beer has made its way into 60 per cent of retail outlets, mostly small retailers such as sundry shops and liquor shops," said one source. "They have also gained ground and are now even found in some major supermarkets and with liquor distributors."
The sources cited reports and analysis, which estimated that the uncollected duty from cheap imported beer to be around RM250mil (S$98.1 million) while the total tax evasion from all alcoholic beverages could be as high as RM1bil (S$ 392 million).
The report noted that while tax losses from beer smuggling in Malaysia are lower compared to smuggling of other liquors in terms of the amount of duty paid, the sheer volume of illicit beer makes up for its lower profit margins.