Cider has been produced on these shores for centuries – in fact longer than any other alcoholic drink. In the last decade, there has been a resurgence in cider-making with many small artisan producers entering the market. The National Association of Cider Makers estimates there are about 480 active cider and perry makers currently in the UK. An EU ruling could force many of the smaller operations to cease production. In its wake, it will also hasten the demise of our traditional orchards and the important natural habitats they support.
Currently a cider-maker can produce 70 hectolitres – around 12,000 pints of cider or perry – without paying any duty. This can produce an annual income of between £10,000 to £12,000. If duty were applied at the current rate, more than £2,700 would have to be paid in excise duty.
EU excise duty rules do not allow zero duty be charged on alcohol, so the total exemption for small cider producers is effectively illegal. The EU Commission has informed the UK that it must change its current excise duty to comply with these rules. According to the NACM, the change will affect about 80% of UK’s cider and perry producers, many of whom will be forced out of business.
The loss of smaller artisan producers would reduce the variety and choice of ciders on offer. Many cider-makers are family businesses that stretch back for generations. They make an important contribution to the rural communities of which they are part and their stewardship of many of our traditional orchards has helped stop the decline of these important habitats.
The government has been given two months to respond to the Commission.