THE cider sector is a success story which merits greater recognition from government.
That was the message from Paul Bartlett, newly-appointed chair of the National Association of Cider Makers, as he addressed politicians and officials at the House of Commons last month.
In his maiden speech, Bartlett, group marketing director for Magners owner C&C Group, highlighted the success of cider in the last decade and urged the UK government to provide certainty on alcohol duty and policy to help the sector continue to flourish.
Outlining some of the issues and challenges he said are unique to the cider sector, Bartlett said the industry’s relative small scale limits its ability to secure economies of scale.
He also pointed out that a cider producer’s investment cycle is measured in decades – a new orchard planted now will take three or four years to yield a crop and a decade to reach break-even.
“We are also dramatically affected by long-term climate change – both in terms of securing sufficient fruit and the impact on consumer demand,” explained Bartlett, who succeeds Aspall’s Henry Chevalier-Guild in the NACM chair.
“Four successive poor summers and the increasing incidence of extreme weather have really buffeted our industry.
“However, we are resilient. We will continue to make progress on protecting and enhancing the environment, on being a responsible and sustainable industry, and supporting the rural communities where we are based.
“In return for the contribution we make we hope, and expect, that government will recognise our unique circumstance and provide a framework so that we might continue to flourish.
“This means providing certainty on duty – during the period of consistent duty our investment and innovation led to the market for cider doubling in four years and government revenues doubled as a result.
“It means a continued willingness to work with us in the areas of social responsibility and sustainability so we can do even more to protect the rural landscape and the investment and employment that is supported by cider makers.
“It also means certainty on policy. We are a small industry reliant on the support of the farming community. Policy decisions taken without consultation, as we have seen with minimum unit pricing, create unrest and uncertainty.
“This threatens our raw material supply and therefore our cider-making future.”
Bartlett also highlighted the increased reach of cider and the prospects for export success.
“Cider is now enjoyed by more people, on more occasions than at any time in our history,” he said.
“From a relatively low base, export sales are up 17% in the last year and ahead 26% since 2009.
“I am very excited about the cider opportunity with strong growth in many overseas markets, particularly the USA, Canada, Australia and South Africa.
“Over the next few years we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to make Britain to cider what France is to wine.”
Image – Paul Bartlett addressed MPs at Westminster.