Sunday 15 September 2019

Trouble brewing for cider-makers here as tariffs would take bite out of profits

Maureen, Jonathon and Louise Scott of Scotts Irish Cider. Photo: Joe Keogh
Maureen, Jonathon and Louise Scott of Scotts Irish Cider. Photo: Joe Keogh
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Trouble is fermenting in the Irish cider-making business.

Set to be the new craft beer, gracing the lips of hipsters everywhere, craft cider has come back from a long hiatus out in the cold.

Wine producers in the US have recently been hit with a profit warning because of the growing popularity of the 'nectar of the gods', with the market growing 65pc each year for the past three years.

But unlike beer, its production comes fraught with problems, not least of which are the weather and the quality of the apples. Now Brexit has come along, potentially taking a giant bite out of the profits in an already uncertain industry.

Jonathan Scott (35), of Scotts Irish Cider, an artisan production business based in Cavan, has been in business for more than three years.

"Cider making was always something I was interested in having tasted cider all over Europe, but I only knew Bulmers here because that's the big player," he said.

He took a course in cider making in Gloucestershire in the UK and was quickly hooked on the production.

"It's more like wine making than beer, you're always working with the harvest and building the production up. It takes more time than beer - you can make that in three weeks," he said.

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"Cider maturing takes a minimum of six months and it's very weather dependent."

Scotts now produce around 100,000 litres a year and is aiming to double its output annually, currently selling to O'Briens and SuperValu.

Figures from Drinks Industry Ireland (DII) show that roughly two-fifths of the global cider market is consumed in the UK and Ireland. In the UK, cider accounts for some 20pc of total long alcohol drinks consumption, Ireland's cider market accounts for 8pc - with DII saying there is still "considerable potential" in the Irish market for cider.

Scotts is hoping to capitalise on this but Brexit is hampering its plans.

"The UK has the largest cider market in the world, consuming 900 million litres a year - so we would like a piece of that pie," he said.

Obviously the tariffs on alcohol could potentially be a major setback - with talk of a 5pc tax per litre.

Mr Scott could also be hit at the other end of the production line - with possible tariffs on the apples he buys in Co Armagh.

Because of the drop in sterling, the price has actually come down, but nothing is certain.

"There's talk of a possible tariff of 60pc on agricultural produce but I've heard 7pc is more probable - which is still a major problem," he said.

The biggest headache is currency stability - with movements of between 10pc and 15pc having a huge impact, he added.

Irish Independent

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