Cider making in the UK has a long and rich history, dating back to Norman times. It is interwoven into our history as a nation, especially here in the West Country. Cider making actually supports around 11,500 jobs across Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Herefordshire. It provides a farming income of around £24 million and attracts over half a million tourists. Sadly, cider makers in this country are currently in turmoil.
2020 started badly with early flooding, a late frost and a spring drought killing a large number of apple trees. Then of course there was Covid-19. Nearly 40% of cider is sold in pubs, bars and restaurants, which were closed for over 100 days and remain capacity constrained and subject to local lockdowns. By mid-August sales were down over 7% against the previous year, threatening employment, farming and the rural economy. By the end of this year, sales are expected to be down 10-15%.
We’ve worked with the Temperley family at Burrow Hill Cider for over 20 years, who supply us with the finest west country cider apples to make our Jack Ratt ciders. Although cider growing has been in their family for generations, through wars, recessions (and Brexit!), they too are deeply concerned about how this year has affected them and others within the industry.
That’s why we have been working with Neil Parish, our local MP, to appeal to Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). Together, we are asking the government to provide a fund for apple growers to buy unused apples under contract. We also ask that excise duty for cider is reduced, both overall for long alcoholic drinks and with an extra 2p per pint reduction for cider. Plus, we would like to see fairer treatment for flavoured ciders, and for small cider makers to be better supported with a more progressive cider duty system.
Not only is cider popular in the UK, but we are global leaders, representing 38% of global cider sales, with over £110 million of export sales around the world. As such, it is essential that the industry is protected in these difficult times. We hope that Mr Parish MP will be granted a meeting with Defra and that the government will offer much needed support. Meanwhile, cider makers and growers will continue to unite, to fight for our quintessentially English drink and essential part of our DNA here in the Westcountry.