SABMiller’s Local Choices

13 Jan

SABMiller is the conglomerate that has brought you such brands as Grolsch, Miller Genuine Draft and all its buddies, Peroni (thanks for giving Italy a bad name) and Pilsner Urquel.  Sometimes, surprise surprise, the Financial Times runs articles documenting the exploits of the macrobrewing industry.  The most recent article, featured a run-down of SABMiller’s outreach to more local markets in West Africa by using cassava root in their brews.  Apparently, this move was in reaction to some recent flooding that decimated other crops in the small town of Luanda.  SAB also set up shop, as in sunk a few hundred million into a new brewery next door, and are now producing the cassava beer and selling it to the same people who grew the crop — even though, it is slightly cheaper than their standard beer.

I’ll give SAB some cred for helping out subsistence farmers in a bad situation in West Africa but here’s my issue: I worry that swooping into a bad situation with billions of dollars and buying up cassava root, could possibly influence the local government to start only growing this product — an abundant, cheap resource that feeds the nation’s poor — and could possibly drive up the cost of this resource making it more expensive to eat than produce.  A similar situation occurred in Chile with soy beans to disastrous ends.  Just something to keep in mind when large corporations come into underdeveloped countries with an unregulated agency — something doesn’t smell good here.

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