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close this bookAlcohol-related Problems as an Obstacle to the Development of Human Capital (WB)
close this folderTrends in production and consumption
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View the documentConsumption of alcohol
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View the documentTrade in beer, wine, and spirits


Consumption of alcohol

The basic assumption of the literature on alcohol abuse and the related problems is that trends in alcohol-related problems are positively correlated with alcohol consumption. To that extent, data on country specific consumption of beer, wine, and spirits can be used as the starting point for an analysis of the impact of alcohol-related problems. While data on beer, wine and spirits consumption are not available in every country, the Brewers' Society has compiled data on global alcohol consumption as measured in liters of absolute alcohol per person. The average liters per capita for these countries from 1970 to 1989 are shown in Figure 2. In 1989, levels of consumption across countries range from a low of 1.2 liters per capita in the Republic of Korea (beer and wine) to a high of 13.9 liters per capita in Germany. (This data is also contained in Annex table A-l)

On average, worldwide alcohol consumption per capita has been relatively constant over the last 20 years. Although consumption has increased in countries such as Germany and Japan, it has declined in France, Chile, Venezuela, Peru, and many others. Given that increases in income tend to lead to even greater increases in the consumption of alcohol (the income elasticity ranges from 1.3 for beer to 2.5 for spirits) (Clements and Selvanathan 1991), it is likely that rising per capita income accounts for most of these increases, while falling incomes contribute to declines in consumption. It is interesting to note, however, that consumption increased in several of the countries of Latin America, despite falling incomes due to the economic crisis of the 1980's. Unfortunately, it is difficult to measure whether this was caused by increased production or a decrease in the relative price of alcohol--among other things. These increases are shown in figure 2 and Annex table A-l, demonstrating that significant increases in consumption occurred between 1970 and 1989 in Colombia, 72 percent, and Brazil at 242 percent, eventhough Latin America experienced a severe economic crisis in the 1980s.

The data for total alcohol consumption obscure interesting trends among the individual beverages. Between 1970 and 1989 per capita consumption of beer increased by 61 percent worldwide (85 percent in Asia), while per capita consumption of wine fell by 16 percent and the consumption of spirits increased by 29 percent. The general trends for beer and wine consumption per capita are shown in figures 3 and 4 while Annex tables A-2 and A-3 contain consumption data for beer and wine. As discussed earlier in the section on the mortality from alcohol-related diseases, the fall in alcohol consumption is an important trend in countries such as France and Italy, which traditionally had very high levels of consumption (and fairly elevated age standardized rates of cirrhosis).

Over the past twenty years, the consumption of spirits has increased substantially (See Annex table A-4). Unfortunately, there is little data on non-commercial spirits consumption. It may be, therefore, that production and consumption has increased even more rapidly for non-commercial beverages. Future increases in consumption will likely depend on expanding global markets for alcoholic beverages and increasing real incomes. The fact that spirits have the highest income elasticity (elasticities as high as 2.5 have been measured by Clements and Selvanathan) indicates that large increases in per capita consumption of spirits are unlikely without a significant rise in income per capita.

Figure 2: Alcohol Consumption Per Capita By Country, highest to lowest

Figure 3: Beer Consumption Per Capita By Country, highest to lowest

Production of alcohol for consumption

Total world production of beer nearly doubled between 1970 and 1989, increasing from 641 million hectoliters (mhl) in 1970 to 1115 mhl in 1989. During this period, production in Africa, Asia, and Latin America increased from 13 percent of world production to 29 percent. Increased output in a relatively small number of countries accounted for the majority of the rise in production. In Korea, for example, beer production increased from 0.9 millions hectoliters in 1970 to 12.1 mhl in 1989. Production also increased dramatically in Latin America. Between 1970 and 1989, Brazil increased production from 10.3 mhl to 55 mhl, Colombia increased from 7.2 mhl to 18.2, and Venezuela experienced a nearly three-fold increase, from 4 to 11 mhl. Regional production, which reflects these trends, is displayed in figure 5 for the period 1970 to 1989, while more detailed information is contained in Annex tables A-5.

Data on wine and spirits production are less reliable and less current. Data on wine production between 1948 and 1980, reveals that production of wine has increased considerably in Latin America, Europe and North America, while total world production has increased 23 percent. Data in Annex table A-6 for the period between 1965 and 1989 show that production of wine has increased dramatically in South Africa, Mexico, and Czechoslovakia, while it has fallen in traditionally high producer countries such as France and Italy. Although the trends are subject to fluctuations, there is a distinct upward trend in production (See figure 6). The increased wine production, combined with a concurrent fall in consumption in many of the heaviest wine drinking countries, has led to a growing surplus of production over consumption. The surplus in wine might lead to a decline in prices, which could lead to an increase in consumption in many developing countries. The underlying rate of growth is, however, much less rapid than that for beer or spirits, and the share of wine in world markets has therefore declined.

The production of spirits is concentrated in Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the US and Canada. Annex Tables A-7 and A-10 present the available data on spirits production in 1965 and 1980. Total production per capita is very low for Africa, Asia (excluding Japan), and Australia and New Zealand. The available data indicate that production has declined in Latin America and increased in North America, Japan, and Europe.

Figure 4: Wine Consumption Per Capita By Country, highest to lowest

Figure 5: Beer Production. 1970 - 1989 By Region

Figure 6: Wine Production, 1948 - 1980 By Region

Trade in beer, wine, and spirits

Technical improvements in production technology, pasteurization and packaging, have made It possible to ship beer over long distances, particularly where there is recognition of imported brands. Nevertheless, only 2.4 percent of world beer production entered into international trade in 1981, compared to 1.5 percent in 1960 (WHO 1985).

Annex Table A-11 shows the import and export value of beer from 1970 to 1989. Many of the developing countries experienced dramatic export growth during this period. In Africa, for example, export increased 14,000 percent in Mali and 617 percent in Cameroon. Asia has also experienced dramatic increase in production and export. For the region as whole, production increased from 34.9 mhl in 1970 to 152.3 mhl in 1989. Much of this growth has come from China where production increased from 1.2 mhl in 1970 to 66.0 mhl in 1989 and export value increased from $4 million to $25 million.

Although many developing countries are acquiring wine growing technology, ninety percent of the supply of wine in world markets is dominated by a small group of five industrialized countries. The import of wine is also limited to a small group of industrialized countries, evinced by the fact that Great Britain, the United States, and Germany accounted for over 50 percent of all wine imports in 1980 (WHO, 1985). In general, the pattern of trade in wine is that the most expensive varieties enter the export trade, while the less expensive, lower quality wines tend to be consumed domestically.

As with beers and wines, only the higher quality and more expensive spirits tend to enter the international market. International trade is also heavily concentrated in a few countries. The primary exporter is the UK with nearly 50 percent of all exports and the principal importer is the USA with around 32 percent of the market. Once data has been collected on consumption and production and a basic list of alcohol-related problems has been decided upon, the next step is to examine the trends in alcohol-related mortality and morbidity.