On the 1st of August, the cider industry is facing a hammer blow tax hike due to the government’s reform of alcohol duty. It means an 11p hike on alcohol duty for a 500ml bottle of traditional cider with a typical 6.5% ABV.
It will make traditional cider more expensive and local businesses will be less able to compete with industrial alcopop producers. Consumers who are already struggling with the cost-of-living crisis will also be adversely affected as the price of traditional cider will rise.
During the Somerton and Frome by-election campaign, Liberal Democrat Leader, Ed Davey visited Burrow Hill Cider Farm, owners of the iconic Glastonbury Festival Somerset Cider Bus alongside Sarah Dyke.
After founder Julian Temperley and managing director Matilda Temperley shared some of the traditional cider industry’s concerns, the Lib Dems made scrapping the new cider tax a key campaign issue.
Sarah Dyke made the call in a joint letter to the Chancellor co-signed by Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey. The two Lib Dem MPs pointed out that in the last three years alone, growers have lost 1,000 of their 17,000 acres of orchard - around 8%. They said they feared that if this trend continued there might be no cider orchards left in 20 years time, with dire environmental repercussions.
The cider industry is immensely important to rural areas, especially in the South West. It sustains 11,500 jobs, 300 farmers, and is responsible for 35% of the UK’s annual apple crop.
With the deadline to save cider farmers from the tax hike rapidly approaching, Sarah Dyke and Ed Davey urged Mr Hunt to “do what’s right for traditional, small-scale cider producers in Somerset and across the country” and urgently scrap the cider tax.
Sarah Dyke, Liberal Democrat MP for Somerton and Frome, commented:
“Somerset is world-renowned for the quality of its cider but instead of supporting our farmers, the government has made things more difficult at every turn. Now it’s set to hit them with this punitive cider tax.
“Conservative ministers like to talk about our world-leading British industries, yet when it comes to taking action they let our globally recognised producers down. It is high time the government gave our cider farmers the support they deserve and scrapped the unfair cider tax.
“I will make it my mission to stand up for the rural communities in the West Country and give them the voice that so many of this region's Conservative MPs have completely failed to do. That starts by telling the Chancellor that if he cares about the cider industry here in the West of England, he must get rid of this damaging levy.”
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:
“The traditional cider industry has been utterly abandoned by this government. Instead of standing by our small-scale producers, the Conservative party’s tax changes will benefit the multinational alcopop companies at farmers’ expense. Local communities, jobs and the environment are at stake.
“It is typical of this government to put barrier after barrier in front of our small and medium-sized businesses. Once again, Conservative ministers are proving to be completely out of touch.”