The Jakarta Post
Dyan Asthira, 32, has never missed serving beer when she gathers with her friends. She usually buys the drink two or three times in a month from nearby minimarkets, with 10 to 15 bottles in her basket every purchase.
'It's very convenient to buy beer from minimarkets. I can get it while it's cool and don't need to face a long queue,' said Dyan, an owner of a food stall in Yogyakarta, one of the most attractive tourism destinations in Indonesia.
Beer lovers like Dyan will soon miss the light alcoholic drink from racks of nearby minimarkets and kiosks as the government has banned its sale through the retailers nationwide.
Under a Trade Ministry regulation issued last week, beverages with an alcohol content ranging from 1 to 5 percent can only be sold in supermarkets and hypermarkets.
Distributors are required to withdraw existing stocks in the next three months, according to the copy of the rule obtained by The Jakarta Post.
The new arrangement, made in consideration of the 'protection of morals and culture in society' for tightened supervision of alcoholic drink sales, faced protests not only from retailers, but also from
The drinking of alcoholic beverages has been a sensitive issue in the past in Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population, but beer has been an increasingly popular drink, particularly for urban dwellers who usually consume it in their daily lives, often with snacks like peanuts.
Association Indonesian Retailers (Aprindo) deputy chairman Tutum Rahanta said he regretted the policy, saying the authority to allow or prohibit sales of beverages with low alcohol contents should be left to regional administrations. Adjustments could be put in place according to the characteristics of the regions.
'Some places, such as Bali, may need to sell beer in highly accessible shops to meet strong demand from tourists, while others like Banten prefer bans for religious reasons,' he said.
Minimarkets in general account for 1 or 2 percent of total beer sales, but in certain tourism areas they can account for between 10 and 20 percent of distribution, according to the business group.
Tutum further said a scarce supply of beer might also stimulate the circulation of bootleg liquor, which would be counterproductive to the goals of the rule.
Widespread and surging sales of bootleg liquor have also become a concern raised by antidrug activists. East Java Action, a non-profit organization that runs therapy houses for victims of bootleg liquor, said that even before the ban was put in place, sales of this type of liquor have consistently risen.
'The upward trend in bootleg liquor sales is in line with the increasing number of victims who have died drinking it,' said Rudhy Wedhasmara, the coordinator of the organization.
At least 147 regulations passed by local governments since 2013 have been unable to lower the number of deaths connected to the drinking of bootleg liquor, which reaches 18,000 each year, he added.
Some areas in West Java, such as Cirebon, prohibited sales of all alcoholic beverages in supermarkets and minimarkets last year, but the figures related to liquor more than doubled before the arrangement became effective.
Separately, Jakarta Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama said that he had not been informed of the trade minister's new regulation.
However, the city administration would comply with the rule and revise its bylaws when needed.
Currently, sales of light alcoholic drinks in minimarkets and convenience stores are allowed in Jakarta.
Dewanti Wardhani contributed to this story.
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