Drinks industry deserves reversal of penal excise duty, committee hears

The drinks industry supports 12,000 farm families and deserves a reversal of "penal" excise increases, the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland has told the Oireachtas joint committee of agriculture.
Drinks industry deserves reversal of penal excise duty, committee hears

Peter O’Brien, chairman of the group as well as Diageo’s European corporate relations director, said: “Excise is a tax that we simply cannot afford. It is a tax on jobs, tourism, and the hard-pressed Irish consumer.

“The drinks industry is on the cusp of a period of growth and drinks-related tourism is booming. The right policy choices by Government can ensure that this growth potential is realised over the coming years.”

The group said the sector provides demand for 50,000 apples a year, buys 200,000 tonnes of barley, and uses 300m litres of milk. The beer industry and consumers have been subject to a 43% increase in beer excise duty in the last two budgets.

Willie Masterson, who has been farming in Bunclody, Co Wexford, for 25 years was among those to address the committee. He said Wexford farmers sold over 35,000 tonnes of malting barley sold to the drinks industry last year.

“Of that, 500 tonnes came from our farm,” he said.

“I was delighted to hear of the surge in global demand for Irish whiskey, which is set to double exports by 2020 and double those exports again by 2030.

“The increase in the global demand will mean a fourfold increase in demand for the ingredients that go into producing whiskey.”

The committee was also addressed by Marie Byrne, who set up the Dublin Whiskey Company distillery.

“Irish whiskey is on its way back, with 15 new distilleries being developed across the country, including mine in the Liberties,” she said. “To reach its full potential the industry needs a holistic approach that supports small companies like mine in the period before we start producing.

“We need a robust home market before we can scale to export the product. At the moment government policy is simply not allowing this to be a realistic option.”

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