Labuan Runs Dry; Suppliers Allegedly Holding Back On Beer Stock

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BY BORNEOTODAY TEAM
LABUAN – Something is brewing on this duty-free island as regular buyers of relatively cheap beer are wondering why the hold up in their normal supply.

Prices have skyrocketed, as down the supply chain retailers cry out ‘tiada stok’ (out of stock) now.

Limited stocks of beer are left in beer-loving Labuan, whose friendly citizens now have to pay more for their re
Limited stocks of beer are left in beer-loving Labuan, whose friendly citizens now have to pay more for their regular fix.

And those still with old stock are taking advantage of the situation by jacking up prices of the favourite golden brew.

Word is suppliers are hoarding up cartons of beer in anticipation of a price hike come Nov 1.

“But that’s never going to happen,” said a Labuanite who says he is in the know.

“Some tough restrictions (by the Customs Department) perhaps but there will be no major price increase that could strangle sales.

“These people (suppliers and retailers) are just out to create an artificial shortage situation to take advantage and make a quick buck.”

A BorneoToday survey at several outlets revealed limited supply.

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“No Tiger, No Carlsberg,” greeted a retailer as a regular customer walked in. Then as the chap put on a sad face, the counterman added, “satu carton ada la” (I can get you one carton) nodding his head to a worker.

However, the carton of Carlsberg was sold at RM75 instead of the usual RM55.

At other places, there were only the less popular beer on the shelves – San Miguel, often considered a ladies drink in Labuan, China-made Carlsberg which is a big NO to the serious drinkers, and the more expensive imported Heineken.

When contacted, a worker at Carlsberg distributor Chuan Huat, said no comment. The distributor for Tiger could not be reached.

At fun outlets on the island, a set of five bottles of beer is being sold at RM27 to RM35 depending on the brand, while the coffeeshop prices are about 30 percent less.

The shortage is also being felt in Kota Kinabalu and Penampang where cheap beer is guzzled down by the container loads by ever-thirsty Sabahans and friends.

“What used to be ‘3 for 11’ or ‘3 for 12’ is now ‘3 for 20’, or150 a carton of 24, double the price previously,” said a regular drinking kaki (boozer). [At some coffeeshops where duty-free beer is sold, one can get 3 cans for either RM11 or RM12 depending on the brand].

For illustration purposes only. A fun pub in Kota Kinabalu.
For illustration purposes only. A fun pub in Kota Kinabalu.

A coffeeshop operator at Market 88 in Kepayan which attracts customers by the score nightly said he had no choice but to raise his prices as he now paid more from the people who delivered them.

These duty-free beer is smuggled in from Miri, Labuan and neighbouring countries.

Recently the Customs Department seized over 45 container-load of contraband, which included beer.

“To say prices have skyrocketed is an understatement,” said Fred, who used to drink cheap beer at least thrice a week.

“I cannot afford to drink more than two sets now (usually six cans),” he added, saying he did not like the local brew like montoku or other liquor.

Recently the Customs Department announced that there will be restrictions on the sales of beer and alcohol come Nov 1, and that purchasers will have to register themselves and would be limited to three cartons a person a month.