ABFI says that the new Bill, which will allow craft brewers and distillers to sell their produce onsite to visitors, could support tourism and Ireland’s small drinks businesses.
The representative body for drinks manufacturers and suppliers in Ireland also hopes to engage with the Department of Justice & Equality in relation to possible further amendments to the Bill to ensure it benefits all small distilleries and breweries.
However it points out that the positive impact of the Breweries and Distilleries Bill could be undercut by the unintended negative consequences of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill currently under debate in the Dáil. In particular, the labelling and advertising proposals will have a detrimental impact on craft breweries and distilleries.
For example, a specific Irish label would impose additional costs on producers as exporting drinks companies here will have to make a separate label for the Irish market, states ABFI which points out that DKM economic consultants puts a total figure of around €50,000 to redesign an entire suite of labelling for a single product line.
DKM also suggests that these labelling requirements could represent a barrier to entry to the Irish market. As a result of the additional costs that would be imposed, products might be withdrawn from the Irish market or new products might not be introduced.
The new labelling rules will also put Ireland at odds with the rest of the EU which could be particularly problematic during Brexit negotiations.
Membership of the EU, including the single market and access to EU trade deals, is very important for Irish exporters. Central to the EU trading model are the concepts of harmonisation and avoiding barriers to trade. This is also known as avoiding ‘regulatory divergence’ which is something the Government highlights continuously in the context of Brexit.
ABFI says that the creation of single country label requirements for drinks products completely undermines these principles. It says that labelling rules are best dealt with on an EU-wide basis as is currently happening with ingredient and nutritional labelling.
In seeking to do a solo run on labels, Ireland weakens its position as a champion of EU trade and regulatory convergence believes ABFI.
“There are now over 100 micro-breweries and 18 distilleries in operation in Ireland, pointed out ABFI Director Patricia Callan, “We welcome the Government’s recognition of the growing contribution of craft breweries and distilleries to the Irish economy. The Breweries and Distilleries Bill is a progressive and important piece of legislation. We’d like to acknowledge and thank Alan Kelly TD for introducing the Bill and Minister Charlie Flanagan for supporting and bringing forward this legislation.
“However, while on the one hand the Government is supporting small drinks businesses, on the other hand it’s also about to introduce an extremely harmful piece of legislation in the form of the Alcohol Bill.
“The evidence shows that the labelling proposals will make it difficult to introduce new products to the Irish market and will put Ireland at a regulatory divergence from everywhere else in the EU. Additionally, the Government’s efforts to severely restrict the promotion and advertising of the drinks industry could kill advertising of craft breweries and distilleries.
“While the drinks industry supports the objectives of the Alcohol Bill, to tackle harmful drinking and underage consumption, any measure introduced should be rooted in evidence and should not unfairly impact an important Irish industry. We believe there’s scope for reasonable amendments to the legislation and are calling on the Government to balance the bill.”