Employees work on the production line of Kweichow Moutai Co Ltd in Zunyi, Guizhou province. (Photo/China Daily)
Kweichow Moutai, arguably the best known of the expensive Chinese liquors, has seen its prices soar at some retail stores just before the Spring Festival.
A 500 ml bottle of Moutai's classic Feitian 53 percent alcohol has been going for as much as 2,000 yuan ($290) in some stores in Beijing, an increase of almost 40 percent from a few weeks ago. Prices online are lower, with the same bottle going for as little as 1,288 yuan on JD.com.
Analysts credit greater demand for premium liquor and limited supplies for the increases.
"With more disposable income, consumers are willing to spend more, and their mindset is to buy liquors when prices are going up," said a distributor from the Ningxia Hui autonomous region who asked to be identified only as Ding.
However, Ding added, "Despite the recovery, the prices haven't rebounded to the levels before the government's austerity drive and anti-graft campaign." Retail store prices in 2012 peaked above 2,000 yuan, according to Xinhua News Agency, dropping to 1,800 in early 2013, then to 1,200 later that year before stabilizing at about 1,000 yuan.
Wang Chonglin, deputy manager of Kweichow Moutai Co, in the town of Maotai, Guizhou province, said that after a few years of market volatility, the baijiu, or white spirits, industry is gradually recovering, and the demand has expanded as consumer spending has risen.
Inventories of other leading brands of Chinese spirits, such as Wuliangye Yibin Co and Luzhou Laojiao Co, also have been at low levels. Since early January, business dinners, gatherings between friends and special purchases for the Spring Festival have contributed to brisker sales, industry experts said.
High-end baijiu is extremely profitable, and the top four producers in China, including Moutai and Wuliangye, are estimated to account for 27 percent of earnings before interest and taxes of the global spirits industry, according to a Bloomberg report.