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Covid supply woes hit alcohol in the US

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Bourbon bottles are seen on a liquor store shelf in Louisville, Kentucky in June 2018./AFP
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Sep 24, 2021 - 09:49 AM

WASHINGTON — First it was computer chips, and now spirits: Global supply chain woes are shaping up as the party pooper in some parts of the United States.

In Pennsylvania, authorities have limited the sale of certain brands to two bottles per person per day since September 17, due to persistent disruptions in the supply chain and a shortage of products, the state alcohol commission said.

The limits apply to stores selling alcoholic beverages, as well as bars and restaurants in states like Pennsylvania, which have a monopoly on the sale of some types of alcohol.

“We regularly impose bottle limits on products for which we know demand will exceed supply in order to distribute the product as fairly as possible,” said Shawn Kelly, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

On the list of 43 products with sales limits are brands of bourbon, whiskey, champagne, cognac and tequila.

According to US media, several states such as Vermont, Ohio, New Jersey and Alabama are experiencing difficulties, some since July, while several studies have shown an increase in alcohol consumption since the beginning of the pandemic.

Mac Gipson, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control administrator, said that the problem was “partly a global supply chain issue,” with shortages of glass in some places and bottle caps in others.

American producers were also facing labor shortages, delivery problems and increased demand from restaurants and bars that were reopening at the same time after the end of restrictions caused by the pandemic.

There have also been problems with transatlantic transport and disembarkation at US ports.

“It is not a shortage of alcohol but of (some) brands,” said Wendy Knight, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery.

“For example, even though we are out of Bacardi (a light Rum) we still have 21 other rum offerings, including products from local distillers,” she said.

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