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Cider industry calls for government support

Cider industry leaders have called upon the UK government to enable them to deliver growth both at home and abroad.

The message was delivered to a packed Westminster event on the evening of January 28, which was hosted jointly by the Parliamentary Cider Group and the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM).

Chair of the NACM, Paul Bartlett explained that a stable regulatory and fiscal regime – allied with the recognition of the unique nature of the cider industry – will enable growth in the UK and especially in export markets. He said: “Investment by cider makers over many years means we are better placed to succeed over the long-term than ever before.

“In order to secure this opportunity we need regulatory stability, sensible restraint on duty and support in export markets. If we get this, we will do more for the rural communities we are part of and make a greater contribution in terms of duty and tax.”

The audience of ministers, MPs and officials heard that the investment from cider makers had continued despite the most challenging period in living memory.

Bartlett added: “Producers have shown their resilience and tenacity as well as quality in what has been a very tough year. Reduced consumer spending and more pub closures affect every sector; however the poor weather in the last year has been exceptional and is especially difficult for cider makers. The prospect of drought gave way to endless rain and depleted the apple crop by around a third. For some growers, conditions in the autumn were so poor it became a challenge to gather the harvest.”

The keynote address delivered by Bartlett revealed that in recent weeks cider makers had announced planting schemes that would add over 2,000 acres of new orchards that would add around 20% to the total area dedicated to cider apple production. Typically growers planting an orchard are awarded a 20 year contract by producers.

Investment has also been seen in production infrastructure, new products and consumer communication.

Highlighting the increasing focus on exports, a number of cider makers have also invested significant sums to build their presence in key markets like North America and Australia.

Bartlett said: “In September I suggested to the same audience that cider, as a British success story, had real potential to develop and grow multiple major markets overseas. That is starting to happen for cider makers of all scales and we will see significantly more if we can continue to plan and invest for the long-term because we have stability and restraint in the UK.”

One area where the NACM was happy to acknowledge the role for greater engagement with government and others, was in the continuing work to address the alcohol misuse of a small minority. The many cider businesses present were able to share with parliamentarians and others their commitment to the Responsibility Deal, Drinkaware and The Portman Group as well their positive participation in the Scottish Government Alcohol Industry partnership.

Those present also reaffirmed the determination of the cider industry to seek evidence-based solutions to the problems created by misuse. For the NACM, the test for any solution is to deliver the intended reduction in levels of misuse without unfairly disadvantaging consumers, retailers or producers.

29 January 2013 - Felicity Murray


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