I have spent the last couple of days trying to understand attitudes around alcohol in Grenada. Grenada’s total adult per capita consumption of alcohol is 12.5 liters, versus a worldwide average of 6.2 liters. Why is it so high? Well, there are a lot of different components that have jumped out at me that I think indicate alcohol as being very much ingrained in the culture of this beautiful country.
First of all, alcohol is a large part of the economy. There is a lot of alcohol being produced here, as there are three rum distilleries on this small island. Other Caribbean islands have at most one. It is clear that the economy relies heavily on this. When I stepped off the plane and into customs, one of the first things I saw was a large display of different alcoholic beverages, proudly boasted for being “made in Grenada.”
Alcoholic beverages are widely available in Grenada, too. Everywhere I have been able to buy a bottle of water, I have also been able to buy a bottle of beer. In the grocery store, beers are sold in the same refrigerators as soda and juices. They’re generally placed on the lower, more accessible shelves. I spoke to a tourist who said they actually bought an alcoholic beverage by accident from the store, when they meant to buy juice.
Also, alcohol consumption is a very social activity here in Grenada. For most, it appears acceptable to have a drink in the middle of the day. While I was having a conversation with a man at the market around 11:00 AM, his friend walked up, handed him a beer, and they clanked bottles to cheers. While not all drink regularly, holidays seem to be the exception for many. I talked to a lot of teenaged students who told me that their parents generally disapproved of them drinking, but it was okay during Christmas, Carnival, and other major holidays.
Sadly, many locals have told me that they think a lot of drinking occurs out of frustration. Our tour guide told us that unemployment in Grenada is at 40%. Several individuals, both men and women, he said, have turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism.
So, alcohol poses a challenge in policy. As the government works to tackle this problem, it has to aim to curb alcohol consumption and prevent the adverse effects of alcohol use, while maintaining its traditions and economy.