The latest report from Morocco's Foreign Exchange Office reveals that the country imported 33% less liquor in the first six months of 2015 compared to the same period last year. Imports of beer, wine and spirits between January and June 2015 amounted to 137 million dirhams against 206 million the previous year. This represents 3514 tons of alcohol in 2015, 5609 in 2014
Either as a cause or consequence of the decline in imports, legal sales of alcohol fell by 7.6% in the first six months of 2015. This is the fourth consecutive year that the sector has posted declines. Since 2012 sales are down 19%.
Another factor is that in September 2014 Marjane supermarkets across the country stopped selling alcohol. It is believed that a portion of customers turned to the informal market and are not represented in these statistics.
The restriction of opening hours for drinking places and bars in Casablanca, which generates 30% of demand, has also increased the difficulties of the sector. Although the drop in sales was smaller than in 2014, the operators remain pessimistic about the future as it is the fourth consecutive year of lower volumes which over that period are down 19%.
According to figures from the World Health Organisation, 86.6% of Moroccans have never drunk alcohol in their lives. The remaining Moroccan drinkers consume, on average, 17.1 litres of pure alcohol per year.
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From January to June, legal sales of alcohol fell to 424,404 hectolitres. Spirits are the most affected with a fall of 14.33% to 33,025 hl. At the same time, beer consumption fell to 270,864 hl, a decrease of 10%. Wine edged up 0.7% to 120,515 hl.
During the first six months of the year sales reached their lowest level from May to the third week of July, a period that coincided with Ramadan. They resumed "from the third day of the festival," says an industry source.
Spirits importers report trouble maintaining bar sales as the informal system is gaining ground in the segment of strong spirits despite police controls. They believe that the decline in the domestic consumption tax is the only measure able to revive the sector. To justify their request, these operators emphasise that the state is also losing revenue.
Given the decline in volumes, revenues collected under the ICT on beer, spirits and wines in the first half fell 11.2% to 499.6 million dirhams.