Many Whine for Want of Wine
By Laurane Marchive
The Bali Times
LEGIAN ~ Wine supplies have dried up in Bali in recent weeks, leaving many expatriate residents to wonder what’s behind this latest recurring drought.
Some say the problem began five months ago, when Indonesia banned the import of wine into the country, so even though some shops still have stock, they will soon run out.
Others, like the manager of the wine section at the J. Cuvee wine shop, Aldrin Adityawan, say the ban may be part of the problem, but it’s not the only reason for the change.
“I don’t know exactly what happened, as we buy through distributors, but things changed three or four months ago. Some prices went up; some went down. We don’t really understand the logic,” he told The Bali Times.
One of the best examples of wine and spirit supply in Bali is the French hypermarket Carrefour in Kuta. It can no longer offer a large range of alcohol: no well-known brands of vodka, no champagne, few wines and no local wines at all.
Customers wander the aisles not finding what they are looking for, wondering why an island that welcomes such huge numbers of tourists and expatriates doesn’t have a ready supply of alcohol.
At importer Indowines, it’s much the same.
“We import wines from all over the world, including Chile, Australia, Italia, Argentina and France, but wine here is very expensive compared to other countries,” said a manager, requesting anonymity.
He said a wine that costs US$10 in France costs $25 in Bali because of the cost of shipping, and also the amount of taxes levied between the French producer and the Indonesian distributors.
The Indonesian government only authorizes a few companies to import wine, and once the company has the permit, they have to pay import tax plus VAT, which adds about 10 percent to every item imported into Indonesia.
Every bottle of alcohol has Rp20,000 added to it just because it is alcohol. Some of the taxes also depend of the percentage of alcohol in the beverage. Even Hatten wines, produced in Bali, have alcohol taxes added to them, but for imported wines, the taxes in addition to the cost of shipping explain the high prices.
The government organization Sarinah has a monopoly on the handling of alcohol in Indonesia, but some industry sources, who asked to remain nameless, said Sarinah isn’t doing its job. They said Sarinah is supposed to allocate sub-distributors, but isn’t doing this efficiently, which is making the distribution situation unstable.
“They change their minds all the time. There is one man at the top controlling the whole system, so when he changes his mind, the whole system has to change. The current chief is ruling very strily, and it seems that he doesn’t want to see a lot of alcohol in Indonesia. As it gets more difficult to get wine, the prices increase, and so do black market sales,” the source said.
The Indowines manager said another problem was a lack of clear import figures.
“The Central Statistics Bureau is just starting to improve, so we don’t really have clear statistics when it comes to alcohol,” he said.
It is clear, however, that there is a problem with alcohol, and particularly with wine. Although the number of Indonesians drinking wine is increasing every year, according to rising retail sales, it is not part of the Indonesian culture, and is mostly bought by foreigners.