People reined in alcohol buying during the recession along with other discretionary spending, and it can be said that the country now drinks less than neighboring Finland, according to the Institute of Economic Research. But there are some signs that the share of illegal alcohol is growing.
Institute director Marje Josing told ETV that alcohol consumption in Estonia has dropped in the last three years.
In 2007, per capita annual consumption was the equivalent of 12.6 liters of pure alcohol; in 2008, 12.1; in 2009, 10.1; and in 2010, 9.7, the latter figure being a ten-year low. The figures are from a alcohol study released by the institute on May 10.
Josing said that the drop in drinking has perhaps been impacted by the fact that there has been more publicity devoted to the harm caused by alcohol, but added that lower income was also an issue. "Other than a case where a person has a pathological dependence, it is relatively simple to limit spending," said Josing.
Both production and import figures were taken into account, along with quantities exported and imported by individuals.
The volumes of contraband alcohol grew somewhat during the recession, said Josing, but not as much as feared.
Brewers have also contributed to the decrease, by reducing the amount of high-alcohol beer produced.
Chairman of the alcohol producers union Janek Kalvi, who also heads the state-owned Liviko distillery, said that alcohol consumption is moving toward more moderation but criticized the rise in the excise duty which he says has cut back on the numbers of alcohol producers and exporters.
"The sudden changes in the tax environment on the home maket and the continual rises in the excise are restricting the competitiveness of Estonian producers on foreign markets," he said.
He said there are clear signs that the price increases are driving some consumers to opt for illegal alcohol.
"Alcohol producers expect stronger and more unequivocal government intervention in bootlegging, which besides revenue forgone also jeopardizes people's health," Kalvi said.