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January 16, 2012

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Legislator seeks ban on Moutai at official banquets

A SHANGHAI legislator has suggested banning high-priced Moutai liquor at official banquets because it is a waste on public money.

"The public has been complaining that officials drinking Moutai at banquets is actually a misuse of public funds," said Shen Haixiong, a deputy to the Shanghai People's Congress.

Shen suggested Shanghai take the lead and ban its use at official banquets. "The local discipline authorities should also launch routine inspections to avoid the expensive liquor be used at officials' banquets," he said.

The price of 53 percent proof Flying Moutai - the brand's bestseller - has shot up in price to 2,100 yuan (US$333) from 200 yuan in 2000. A limited bottle of Moutai produced in 1992 and decorated with gold was sold for a record 8.9 million yuan at auction in April 2010.

Hu Run, Forbes' business magazine's China chief researcher, also listed the Kweichow Moutai as the world's fourth most valuable luxury brand worth US$12 billion last week, exceeding that of Mercedes-Benz and Chanel.

Moutai sales raked in 13.6 billion yuan in the first nine months of last year, a year-on-year increase of 46.3 percent, while its profits totaled 9.3 billion yuan, up 57.4 percent from the same period in 2010, according to its producer, the Kweichow Moutai Co.

Moutai caps its annual output at 11,000 tons, according to business commentator Ye Tan, of which up to 40 percent is bought either as gifts in return for official favors or for use at official banquets.

Ordinary wage-earners can hardly afford to splurge a month's salary on a bottle of spirit, only government officials dining at public expense are not sensitive to price, she said.

In November, the producer, based in southwest Guizhou Province, contacted the World Luxury Association's representative in Beijing, applying for listing in its annual Top 100 most valuable global luxury brands.

But it later withdrew its application after widespread criticism about Moutai prices having increased 10-fold in recent years, putting the sorghum spirit out of reach of ordinary people.


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