Vietnam's ban of unregistered rice wine may be tough to enforce

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A decree which took effect January 1 bans unregistered home distillery of rice wine, though many said it would be virtually unenforceable considering the practice is a well-established tradition.

The Decree 94/2012 spells out terms and conditions of producing and trading all alcoholic beverages including distilleries of homemade rice wine, which are called by different names depending on region: ruou gao, ruou trang, ruou cuoc lui or ruou quoc lui.

According to the decree, all individuals and organizations producing homemade alcoholic beverages must register with local authorities.

Home distillers have to register whether they are retailers or sell their product to wine producers. For retailing, they must have a registered label on their products.

In Vietnam, most rice wine is made at home distilleries using either normal or sticky rice or a mixture of both. White rice is first cooked and mashed, then water and yeast is added before the mixture is left to ferment. The resulting broth is eventually distilled to produce alcohol.

The new decree aims to manage the production and trading of home distilled rice wine as well as reduce the country's presence of poisonous alcohol.

According to the Food Safety Department, there were 164 cases of food poisoning last year involving nearly 5,400 people, of which 33 were fatal.

Official statistics show alcohol accounts for 3.5 percent of all cases of poisoning nationwide.

Meanwhile, most home distillers in rural areas retail the product within the commune and are unaware of the new decree.


Duy Hung, a distiller in Vinh Phuc Province said his family makes a dozen of liters of rice wine every day, which they mostly sell to local villagers.

"I would not mind that decree. We know that we are making good wine for the villagers," he said, adding that many other villagers also make rice wine at home.

At a wedding party at Hung's village on January 1 when the decree took effect, people were still consuming unlabeled rice wine made by local distillers.

Most visitors at the party said it will be difficult for the small distillers to abide by the new law.

"I have never left the village. I don't know about the new regulation. I still distill and sell wine at home as usual," said Ha of Lung Hoa Commune in Vinh Phuc's Vinh Tuong District.

Owners of several eateries in Hanoi's Linh Dam new urban area said they still sell unlabeled rice wine from rural distillers, which they said is inexpensive but high quality.

Vietnam has a long tradition of homemade rice wine. However, it became increasingly popular during the 1850s of the French colonial period, when the French tightened controls over the trade to of rice wine collect more taxes.

Many residents were said to oppose the ban of by continuing to produce homemade rice wine more stealthily.

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