Distillers, which had previously been excluded, have been added to the Scheme following significant engagement by ABFI with the Government and theEuropean Investment Bank.
Spirits producers now join beer and cider producers as being eligible for the scheme which will make a fund of up to €300 million available over a five-year period.
Small to Medium-sized Enterprises, including producers in the drinks industry, can apply for loan eligibility from 17th April with at least 40% available to the agri-food sector according to ABFI Director Patricia Callan who stated that the Scheme would help businesses in the Irish drinks industry by ensuring access to credit to allow investment in business development, expansion and diversification strategies to weather the disruption and uncertainty caused by Brexit.
“Ireland’s drinks industry is experiencing a period of exceptional growth and innovation” she stated, “with small breweries and distilleries located across the island of Ireland. The latest CSO figures show that overall alcohol drinks exports increased by 8% last year, from €1.25 billion in 2017 to €1.35 billion in 2019.
“The Irish drinks industry operates on an all-island basis with seamless cross-border supply chains. In total the Irish drinks industry carries out over 23,000 truck movements across the Irish border every year, over 5,000 of which are alcohol tanker-movements.
“The aggregate value of trade in drinks products between the UK and Ireland is €364 million, one-third of which (€121 million) is the aggregate value of north-south trade. The UK remains the dominant market for Irish beer (71% of exports) and cider (85% of exports).
“Additionally, many Irish drinks companies are located in Northern Ireland including a number of Irish Whiskey, Irish Cream Liqueur and Irish Poitín producers. These products are all protected by a Geographic Indication.”
It’s vital that this cross-border protection continues post Brexit, she stated.
“While we’re clear in our desire to avoid a hard border and for seamless alignment between the EU and the UK, things do remain uncertain.”
Meanwhile the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland has welcomed the announcement of a €15.5 million tourism fund for regional towns by Fáilte Ireland but warned that high tax rates on local drinks and hospitality businesses is counterproductive and undermines the potential to further develop tourism in regional towns.
“Ireland’s drinks and hospitality industry across the country is central to our attractiveness as a tourism hub in terms of our pubs, hotels, restaurants and the growing network of new distilleries and microbreweries in local towns and villages,” commented DIGI Chair and Director of Communications at Irish Distillers Rosemary Garth.
However, despite this, the excise tax paid by these businesses and consumers is disproportionally high by EU standards, she pointed out.
“Ireland pays the second-highest level of alcohol excise tax in the EU behind only Finland. Ireland pays the highest tax on wine, the second-highest on beer and the third-highest on spirits. These charges increase the price of our products for consumers and tourists.”
In addition, the drinks industry are is now grappling with the enormous increase in VAT from the last Budget, she emphasised.
“We need to ensure we’re competitive and position Ireland as a key holiday destination among other EU countries and continue to attract tourists. We’ve seen this week that the numbers of tourists visiting Ireland from the UK has fallen by 2% which is a trend we and the government must reverse. We urge government to review taxation policy to ensure it’s fit for purpose and supports an industry that’s key to driving our tourism product across Ireland, creating new businesses and tourist attractions rurally and supporting jobs.”
According to Dublin City University economist Anthony Foley in his DIGI-commissioned-report, The Contribution of the Drinks Industry to Irish Tourism, published recently, the experience of an authentic Irish pub, a live trad session and a taste of real Irish beer and whiskey are top of tourists’ ‘to-do’ lists on their visit to Ireland.
“Through the DIGI Support Your Local campaign, we look forward to engaging with Government to discuss the potential of this industry to drive tourism in Ireland and ensuring policy supports this ambition.”