Antiseptics makers fighting for access to spirit

While antiseptics makers are prepared to up production, they require more lax excise laws to up the supply of medical grade ethanol.

The supply of medical-grade antiseptics is drying up. The Polish market had been dominated by foreign producers and imported supplies are not getting through. Polish suppliers keen to fill the gap are facing significant problems with the supply of high-proof denatured ethanol of medical purity.

The easiest solution would be for them to simply go to vodka producers and order ethanol made for purity rather than taste. The problem that they are facing however, is of a legal nature.

In order to produce pure ethanol which is not subject to excise, a vodka distillery is required to have a separate bonded warehouse and a licence to denature the distillate.

Special permission was given to three companies earlier this month - refinery PKN Orlen, copper manufacturer KGHM and pharma firm Polfa Tarchomin to produce antiseptic from denatured alcohol. However, smaller Polish firms such as medical cosmetics firm Medisept have so far not been granted this privilege.

In their view, the production of the two giants - forecast to reach 3.3 mln litres, is not going to be enough to fulfil demand from hospitals, which has increased 30-40 fold over the past couple of weeks.

The Spirits Production Association’s Witold Włodarczyk told Rzeczpospolita daily that the three giants have sucked the market dry of ethanol and they are not producing for hospitals, only for the consumer market.

Orlen is planning to increase production to 4.5 mln litres in April but to do so it would need to have freer access to raw materials.

One problem is that the costs of denaturing alcohol and the ingredients required to do so have gone up by over 300 percent in the last couple of weeks.

The Spirits Production Association head suggests the best way forward would be to allow the use of consumption-grade alcohol in the production of medical disinfectant.

Aiming to please, the prosecutor's office has said they will make 450,000 litres of 70-percent proof alcohol and other vodka confiscated from bootleggers and smugglers available to hospitals, TVP Info reported.