Minimum unit pricing (MUP) on alcohol means drinks could become twice as expensive here compared to Northern Ireland, says lobby group Drinks Ireland.
The group are warning that the introduction of MUP here before the North will significantly increase the difference in alcohol prices, and therefore cause a surge in people heading up North to buy their alcohol.
An Ibec economic report showed that a unilateral MUP move would increase the existing price differential on alcohol between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland from 27% to 38%.
Additionally, it’s estimated that it would result in a €94mn loss to the Irish Exchequer in increased sales across the border.
Figures gathered by the group compared prices from this weekend in ASDA Enniskillen to what they would be in the South with MUP in place.
They showed the price of an 18 pack of Carlsberg is currently 11 euro 49 cent in Asda, but would be 23 euro and 78 cent here, if MUP was introduced.
Director of Drinks Ireland, Patricia Callan says that cheaper alcohol prices in the North could result in people doing other shopping across the border.
“The drinks industry is in favour of tackling the sale of cheap alcohol to reduce alcohol misuse,” she said in a statement.
“While we acknowledge the delays in Northern Ireland in introducing this measure, our position is that MUP should be introduced in conjunction with the North, a position that aligns with the previous Cabinet decision and reconfirmed in the current Programme for Government.
“Otherwise, it would drive many price sensitive households, who have already been hard-hit by the pandemic, to shop across the border. It would also place massive pressures on border businesses, and lead to an increase in illicit alcohol smuggling at the border, all at a vulnerable time for our economy.”
She added: “In the context of this debate, it’s also important to highlight that alcohol consumption in Ireland declined last year by 6.6% to its lowest level in thirty years.
“This fall, while accelerated by Covid-19 and the closure of the hospitality sector, is also in line with the fact that alcohol consumption generally is declining in Ireland. The average consumption in 2020 was 29.8% lower than the peak of 2001.”
During the week, it was reported that Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland wrote an open letter to the Government in which they argued that the danger to public health caused by the availability of cheap strong alcohol has been sustained by a hyper competition amongst retailers.
The letter also stated that this was fueled by the commercial practices of the producers of alcohol, and the group believe the solution to binge drinking is to implement MUP.
Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland Prof Frank Murray said that the group seeks to “encourage a constructive new direction in public alcohol policy.”
“Crucially, we believe, informed by international best policy evidence, that adequate control and regulation had to be established in order to curb the demand for alcohol.
“This will ensure that less alcohol is purchased with consequent reduction in alcohol harms.
“This would be particularly helpful to those who caused themselves, and others, the most harm through persistent binge and heavy drinking.”