August 21, 2009 / 10:35 AM / 10 years ago

Recession drowns Thais in cheap white liquor

Men drink beer at a restaurant in Hanoi July 20, 2009. REUTERS/Kham

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Thailand’s worst economic recession in a decade has prompted Thais to drown their sorrows in cheap hard liquor, instead of more expensive beer.

Thai Beverage, the country’s biggest spirit and beer maker, saw a 26 percent fall in beer sales volumes and a 16 percent rise in spirit sales volumes in the first half of the year.

“If you want to get drunk fast, white spirit is the drink,” said Ueychai Tantha-Obhas, the firm’s sales chief, told an audience of investors and analysts on Friday in Singapore, where the firm is listed.

White liquor, made of molasses with a 40 percent alcohol content, is seen as the spirit for the rural and urban poor with a price tag of 85 baht ($2.50) a 625-cc bottle. Chang Beer, with 6.4 percent alcohol content, costs 40 baht a bottle.

“To get the same effect from white spirit, you probably have to drink 24 bottles of beer,” Ueychai said.

Despite billions of dollars in state spending to stimulate the economy in the second half of 2009, the firm said Thais would keep drinking more cheap spirit this year.

“I don’t believe the government. The government has to say nice things. Our outlook is we still believe that our sales will be strong in spirits.”

($1=34.02 Baht)

Reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Sanjeev Miglani

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