Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The death of sales from the barrel - the MUP's grim reaping.

Further to my last post (which made someone rather angry) I have been in touch with various people regarding their thoughts and opinions around the MUP (Minimum Unit Pricing) issues. I know various national papers have expressed an interest in the story for column inches and I have been contacting people within the BBC in the hope they might want to pick it up, with positive interest all round so far. To help put you in the picture as to where our cider industry stands regionally in the south west, SWECA (South West Cidermakers Association) have posited this response on their website:

"The South West of England Cider Makers’ Association is seriously concerned about the potential damage the Government’s proposed minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcoholic products will cause to traditional West Country cider makers, their customers and the rural economy in general. Traditional cider makers and their customers are not part of the problem that the Government wishes to address with this policy and they would be unfairly penalised by the policy. Cider is an important part of the rural economy in the South West, with makers investing in orchards with an expected life of 50 years or more and creating long term sustainable employment. We urge the Government to carefully consider these issues before making any decision that might damage our industry."

The NACM (National Association of Cidermakers) who is chaired by the fantastic Henry Chevallier-Guild (from Aspalls Cider) issued this response a few weeks ago upon hearing the news that the Government wants to push the MUP policy through had this to say:

“The cider industry is extremely disappointed with the Government's new legislative approach. There has been no consultation despite the great impact this legislation could have on our industry, which contributes significantly to the local, rural economies where our members are based.  “The NACM recognises that we must find a solution to alcohol misuse, but Minimum Unit Pricing is not a silver bullet, therefore a commitment to implement it without debate is not how we expect Government to operate.  “We are pleased to see that other aspects of planned changes will be discussed more broadly and we will be responding positively to Government recommendations for further joint-industry cooperation, working towards resolving the big issues surrounding alcohol misuse.  “We continue to support the Responsibility Deal [and believe that the Unit Reduction Pledge announced today is a positive step forward.]” 

I have also spoken to several MP's to gauge their level of understanding about the issues over there last few days and its really interesting just how varied some of that understanding is. One MP (who will remain nameless for now) had absolutely no idea that there was any issue at all and thought the MUP policy was indeed some kind of cure-all for the ills of alcohol abuse. On the other hand, Graham Watson MEP discussed various schemes previous governments had tried to target alcohol abuse legitimately and although he completely agrees with dealing with the problem, he is worried about the fate of small cider-makers, saying "we need to find a way of protecting traditional cider-making." When asked about how we might talk to the government about its plans he suggested an early day motion in parliament or by asking local MP's to speak with the chancellor and concluded that "we need to take every opportunity for people to distinguish between craft artisanal producers and the big players in the market."

Last night I had a had brief chat with Simon Rusell a spokesman from NACM. He's has been trying to raise the point regarding the uncertainty faced by the industry at the moment "about what will happen, when and what it might mean is more than just unsettling for the cider industry because more than any other sector we have to plan for the long-term... we really need stability and certainty in order to have the confidence to invest – for example in an orchard that will take years to deliver a single apple, several more years to break even and might have a productive life of over 50 years."

Please watch this great short film explaining the problem and then share it as it neatly sums up the problem we are facing 

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