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Ireland eyes Indian liquor market after duty cut

The Irish food board, Board Bia, welcomes the recent cut in India’s import duty on spirits by gearing up to invade the sub-continental market, reports Uday Nayak.
Hindustan Times | By Uday Nayak, Dublin
UPDATED ON OCT 01, 2007 01:46 AM IST

THE IRISH food board, Board Bia, has welcomed the recent cut in India’s import duty on spirits by gearing up to invade the sub-continental market. And the targets are Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, to begin with.

Board Bia, which primarily looks after the island nation’s liquor and dairy sectors, is confident of making a mark in India’s whiskey market through its superior liquor and liqueur brands.

“With this duty cut, Indian prices of our brands won’t be as prohibitive as we earlier calculated them to be. Since India is the number one whiskey consumer in the world, we are sure our whiskies will do well there,” says David Eiffe, Asia Manager, Board Bia.

The brands that the Irish food board is lining up for India include Jameson, Wild Geese, Tyrconnell, Knappogue, Tullamore Dew, The Irishman, Brogans, Black Bush and Bushmills Malt in the whiskey segment and Baileys, Molly’s, Carolans, Irish Knights, O’Mara’s, Feeney’s and Bloom Mountain in the cream category.

While Jameson and Baileys have beaten all other Irish brands in terms of their global popularity, their forbidding prices have kept them away from tipplers in India. The price of a one-litre bottle of Jameson that costs 23 euros or roughly Rs 1,300 (duty-free) in Dublin, springs to somewhere between Rs 5,000 and Rs 6,000 by the time it reaches the end-user in India. This four-fold jump is attributed to both central and state duties.

“We expect the Indian government to soften the duty structure so that prices of imported liquors become affordable from consumer point of view. The recent cut is too little to really have an impact on the prices. Nevertheless, it is a welcome step,” says Donagh McHenry, Regional Director, Jameson.

Highly popular among women worldwide, Baileys Original is sold in over 130 countries and Diageo, the company holding the brand, claims it is the world’s number one selling liqueur. It accounts for 6 per cent of all Irish food and drink exports.

So, will the entry of Irish whiskies affect the Indian Made Foreign Liquor business? Liquor baron Vijay Mallya laughs off the challenge, saying: Indians are very faithful to their brands. They don’t drink whiskies, they drink brands. They will never dump their own brands for anything else.”

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