Editor’s comment

There’s nothing like a bargain. Over the Jubilee weekend I was helping my parents stock up on goodies for their (somewhat washed out) BBQ. We stopped off at a local Lincs off-licence to grab a few extra packets of crisps and I was surprised to see single cans of Grolsch for sale at £1 each.

There were other brands of strong lager at a similarly low price….I could only begin to guess how little the shop owner had paid for his beer to be able to offer such a ridiculously low retail price and still obviously make a profit.

But judging by the responses to our survey this issue, cheap beer and even wine… are now ubiquitous around the UK with every single wholesaler taking part claiming to know of non-duty paid alcohol sales in his area.

In fact, while talking to wholesalers over the past couple of weeks the only one to say it wasn’t aware of duty fraud in its area was Sutherland Bros, based in Wick and servicing stores and caterers in the Scottish Highlands. David Sutherland told me that any outlets selling non-duty paid stock would “stand out like a sore thumb”.

And there’s the point. In the towns and cities illegal alcohol sales don’t particularly stand out because so many stores are offering similar prices. What hope have law-abiding wholesalers and their customers unless the brewers admit to the extent of the problem and agree to duty-paid stamps?

The FWD says more than 300m litres of “exported” beer probably finds its way back to the UK black market, HMRC says it’s losing £500m on beer duty fraud alone. The brewers deny it’s that big a problem and the cost of duty stamps will be prohibitive.

I think our survey results point to the unpalatable truth… don’t you?

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