Five years after the government slapped heavy taxes and duties on imported liquor and imposed new rules on sales, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that per capita alcohol consumption in Ecuador has dropped by 23%.
WHO says that drinking age Ecuadorians consumed an average of 9.4 liters of alcohol per person in 2010 but only 7.2 liters in mid-2013 to mid-2014. WHO reports the decrease in consumption dropped Ecuador to ninth place among the most bibulous countries in Latin America, down from second in 2010.
Owners of bars, restaurants and liquor stores, who say they have seen a 15% to 25% decrease in liquor sale revenue, dispute the figures. “Legitimate businesses have been hurt by the taxes and rules but the alcohol still comes into the country,” says Felipe Cordovez, President of the Ecuadorian Association of Importers of Liquors. “Now, it comes in illegally from Colombia and Peru in great quantities. I doubt very much that consumption has dropped as much as they say. The consumption continues, it’s just that more of it is with smuggled liquor.”
Ecuador’s Customs Service of Ecuador reports that legal importation of liquor has dropped by almost 50% since 2010.
“The government’s policy doesn’t make sense,” says Cordovez. “There are hundreds of trucks a day driving across the borders on dirt roads. They take tanks of gas to sell in Colombia and Peru and come back loaded with bottles of Johnny Walker. The government doesn’t admit this.”