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Dispute leads to a beer’s shortage

A person pours a Heineken beer into a glass in 2013
A person pours a Heineken beer into a glass in 2013. Supplies of Heineken have dried up in the Kingdom in recent weeks, a problem that has been put down to a change in distributors. BLOOMBERG

Dispute leads to a beer’s shortage

The Kingdom’s Heineken lovers are in for a bit of a dry spell.

A few months after a dispute erupted over the distribution rights for the Dutch lager, the beer is no longer fully available in Cambodia.

“We regret that Heineken is currently not widely available in the Cambodia market,” Cambodia Brewery Limited, the beer’s exclusive distributor, said in a statement yesterday.

The quarrel over Heineken began when local firm Attwood Import Export lost its right to distribute the beer in Cambodia, which it had enjoyed since 1994.

When Attwood’s latest 10-year contract for Heineken beer expired last December, the distribution rights went to CBL, which has slowly been completely bought out by Heineken’s Asia-Pacific branch over the years.

CBL declined to say what was behind the lack of Heineken distribution, although it noted that it was “working with the relevant stakeholders and the former distributor” to bring the beer back.

According to CBL’s general manager Roland Bala, the distribution issues have affected the company for about a month.

Attwood declined to comment yesterday on the issue “at this stage”. However, in January, it kicked up a storm over the loss of its lucrative contract.

At the time, the firm put out a statement saying that it “would have expected to be consulted in time, as the long-term partner of the Heineken brand in Cambodia”.

“Today’s success of the brand in Cambodia as the number 1 premium beer is only due to AIE’s hard work and commitment.”

Despite Attwood admitting it “was not contesting the exclusive right of HAPE [Heineken Asia Pacific Export] to brew, import and distribute the Heineken Lager in Cambodia”, the dispute made its way to the Ministry of Commerce.

The ministry urged the battling beer distributors to “reach an amicable compromise over the issue”.

So far, that does not appear to have been the case. And while the beer distributors slug it out, restaurants and others vendors have been left in the dark.

The general manager of an upscale Phnom Penh bar, who declined to be named as he needed to maintain good relations with both CBL and Attwood, said there was “a lack of stock everywhere” due to the firms’ dispute.

“They sure are killing their brand locally,” he said.

Carrol Sahaidak-Beaver, executive director of the Cambodia Hotel Association, said several restaurants were reporting a total absence of the Dutch lager.

“It’s been about two weeks that they can’t get any [Heineken] from suppliers anywhere,” she said.

At the liquor wholesaler Supercheap in Phnom Penh, a Post reporter found no Heineken in sight.

“Yeah, many people look, but [we] don’t have,” said warehouse assistant Dara Kov. “We don’t know why. [It’s] the same at other [stores].”

Attwood is owned by Lim Chhiv Ho, a prominent businesswoman who was listed as one of Cambodia’s top 10 tycoons by the US government in a leaked State Department cable from 2007.

Attwood, which also distributes Johnnie Walker whiskey and Hennessy cognac, is making moves to distribute other foreign beers.

The firm is set to sign an exclusive distribution deal with Corona on Friday, according to a public relations spokesperson.

CBL, meanwhile, supplies other well-known beers in Cambodia such as Anchor, Tiger, and ABC Stout.

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