The introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing could intensify cross-border shopping for alcohol, hitting the Irish economy and border counties, warned Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) today.

ABFI, the representative body for drinks manufactures and suppliers in Ireland has said that the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing should only be done in conjunction with Northern Ireland. It said that a ban on below cost selling should instead be introduced to tackle the sale of cheap alcohol.

This comes as new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO)* indicate that the total household expenditure on shopping in Northern Ireland in the 12 months to Quarter 1 2018 was €458 million.

The CSO figures show that the average amount spent by households on their most recent shopping trip to Northern Ireland was €275. 14% of households made at least one shopping trip to Northern Ireland during the surveyed period.

In Border counties, nearly six out of every 10 (57.3%) of households comprised of 3 or more adults with dependent children made shopping trips to Northern Ireland.

The latest statistics offer an insight into what people buy across the border. 40% of households that travelled to Northern Ireland to shop during the period in question bought alcohol.

Patricia Callan, Director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) said:

“The drinks industry is in favour of tackling the sale of cheap alcohol to reduce alcohol misuse.

“However, the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing in the Republic would intensify cross-border shopping, which is already high as we see from today’s statistics.

“We firmly believe that any government decision about Minimum Unit Pricing should be done alongside Northern Ireland, to ensure there isn’t a disparity. Given the current political context in Northern Ireland, this could take some time. In the interim, we believe that a ban on below cost selling should be introduced to tackle the sale of cheap alcohol in a quick and effective manner.

“A ban on below cost selling would ensure alcohol is not sold as a loss leader and would end the deep discounting that distorts the market.

“It should be noted, also, that Ireland already has the highest prices for alcohol in the EU, according to Eurostat.”

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