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Cheers ... the budget's good news for producers like John Harris from the award-winning West Croft Cider, says Mr Liddell-Grainger

Liddell-Grainger praises Budget help for cider producers

GOVERNMENT proposals to cut cider duty and support smaller producers represent the best possible news for the industry, says MP Ian Liddell-Grainger.

The Budget contains plans for a 5% cut in cider duty – the largest since 1923.

But the Chancellor has also outlined plans for a Small Producer Relief scheme – similar to the existing Small Brewers’ Relief – which will introduce a sliding scale of duty rates.

Both measures form part of a package of changes being introduced now that Brexit has freed the Government to overhaul and simplify its alcohol duty regime.

Mr Liddell-Grainger, who chairs the all-party parliamentary cider committee, said the duty cut – with another proposed on fruit ciders – should help stimulate sales in a sector where they have been falling year on year.

But he said the help for smaller producers would be welcomed across the cider industry because it would encourage them to expand and eventually join the sector’s major players.

Stifling burden

He said it was clear the Government had listened to lobbying from cider industry leaders on the need to free new and aspiring cider makers from the stifling burden of duty.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said: “Under EU regulations there was little opportunity to make cider a special case because in European terms it really is a minority product.

“But in a domestic context cider’s importance is plain to see. Not only does it create employment in rural areas where job opportunities continue to be scarce, by sourcing apples from huge acreages of orchards which remain undisturbed for most of the year it is making a significant contribution to nature conservation. And I am glad ministers have now recognised this.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said easing the duty constraints on smaller producers would deliver long-term benefits.

“In recent years the cider industry has attracted a bevy of skilled and enthusiastic recruits who are already producing some really exciting new products,” he said.

“The problem until has been that although there is a derogation in place to allow them to sell a limited amount of cider without paying duty once that threshold is passed full duty becomes payable – with all the impact on sales and bureaucratic expense that entails.

“This has acted as something of a psychological brake on expansion with many producers preferring to stay small and remain under the threshold.

“This measure will be a liberating influence which should encourage activity and growth in that part of the sector, enabling more customers to enjoy the wonderful ciders that are being produced and enabling the producers to make a full contribution to what is already the most dynamic and innovative cider industry in the world.”

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