Locally made arak is set to go international, as Karangasem regency is looking to bring the liquor to the foreign market.

“Arak has the potential to be sold in foreign markets as a traditional beverage from Bali. We’re working to improve the liquor-based small enterprises so they can export,” Regent I Wayan Geredeg said recently.

He announced that the regency was assisting 12,000 liquor producers for a possible push into the foreign market.

Made of distilled palm sugar, arak is consumed and also used by the Hindu people in Bali as part of religious offerings.

Karangasem is known as the island’s main producer of arak. A number of villages have become production centers, using traditional methods to produce the liquor.

Geredeg said most arak enterprises had to be discreet about their production because they usually did not have licenses to produce the beverage. And, they are often the targets of police crackdowns in which their product is confiscated.

Arak is usually sold at kiosks in bottles or fuel containers. Besides being sold illegally, the traditional beverage is considered hazardous because it can spur criminal activity and cause traffic accidents due to the potent brew’s effect on consumers.

Bali has also seen some fatalities caused by arak consumption due to irresponsible practices when making the liquor.

“We’re calling on the producers to control the alcohol content. Producing arak from methanol is not allowed,” Geredeg said.

The regent said arak producers would be encouraged to establish a group for joint production so they can penetrate the overseas market.

But, these efforts are hampered by legal problems because the central government has stopped issuing licenses for new alcoholic beverage products in the last several years. The regency administration must ask three already legal producers to support the export of arak.

The three are producers of salak wine: Dukuh Lestari with the capacity to produce 2,400 liters a year, UD Parta Jaya with a 60,750 liter per year capacity and Niki Shake Bali with 20,400 liters a year.

“We will ask them to cooperate with the small enterprises so that arak can be packaged and distributed through their companies,” the regent said.

Karangasem aims to make arak an export commodity following its success in developing alcoholic beverages from salak and cashews.

Bali Industry and Trade agency head I Gede Darmaja said arak had the potential to become an export commodity. Some producers have even started packaging their arak and controlling the alcohol content.

“Arak has actually already entered the overseas market, but only as souvenirs brought by tourists to their home countries,” he said.

He said his agency would support the Karangasem regency’s efforts to export arak as long as the legal requirements were fulfilled.

“Strict controlling measures should be applied so that the products are of high quality and safe for consumption.”

He said producers should also declare on the product’s label whether the arak is to be used for religious ceremonies or for consumption, adding that arak tabuh, which is usually used as a religious offering, is dangerous and not meant for human consumption.

Source: TheJakartaPost, 15 March 2011