Saturday, June 29, 2013

Tonic shortage

My last tonic
Over the past couple years as I have traveled in Africa I have developed a love of tonic water.  Most Americans don’t know what it is besides something to add to gin, but this amazing drink that allowed european travelers so survive in the malaria infested regions of Africa has become a staple in my house.  The quinine in the tonic allowed the european travelers to survive malaria, but I like it for the flavor.

I was happy to see when I moved here in March that the local brewery sold tonic in the bottle along with Coke, Fanta, and the usual variety of sodas.  However, over the past couple months its been getting harder and harder to find tonic.  About a month ago the local restaurants ran out of tonic in the local bottle and began serving it in a can for three to four times the regular price.  Normally a bottle of tonic would cost 500 CFA (approx $1 USD) but this last Thursday a can of tonic cost 2000 CFA ($4 USD).  However, the price of Coke and Fanta has remained unchanged.

In order to find an answer to the tonic scarcity I joined a tour of the local brewery in N’Djamena to see what was going on at the plant and ask questions of the brewmasters.  The tour was interesting and they showed us the storeroom for the raw materials, processing vats, and bottling plant.  At the time the brewmasters were brewing Gala beer made from rice and malt and bottling Castle in smaller bottles.  The brewery could produce 300,000 bottles of beer and 250,000 bottles of soda per day and operated around the clock.  The production and bottling operations were automated and moved along smoothly and the warehouse was full of beer and soda.    
Unloading room where rice and hops begin processing.  At this point we were told to turn off our cameras to protect their trade secrets.

At the end of the tour they brought out a variety of their locally brewed beverages for us to sample but no tonic.  When questioned about the tonic the Chadian brewmaster replied that Africans don’t like tonic so it doesn’t sell so they don’t make a lot of it.  He continued that they will make a batch of tonic every six-months or so and it will sit in the warehouse or their distributors for a long time so it wasn’t worth making tonic anymore.  The brewmaster suggested instead that I try the Fanta Fruit Punch, which was pretty good.  

So in the end, the tonic shortage will continue in N’Djamena until the brewery decides its time to brew tonic again (and the brewmaster did not know when that would be).  I will have to search the distributor black market to find tonic that might be hidden in a back corner or perhaps I can get some delivered from Cameroon or Nigeria.  When they do produce tonic again, I will have to stock several cases and ration them for the long dry season.  

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