Historic cider maker undeterred by controversial tax hike

Thatchers Cider, which has produced cider in Somerset for more than a century, says it's "business as usual" for the firm despite the hefty increase in cider tax announced by the Government.

Tax on cider is increasing by 10% above the inflation rate - but Martin Thatcher told Grower he hopes to carry on as normal despite National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) chair Henry Chevallier's warning that the cider industry "might be at risk" from the change.

Thatcher said:  "We are obviously disappointed with the increase in the duty. I suppose it's because we have been successful and a lot of people have started drinking cider in the last few years. They need to raise some funds and have to look somewhere."

"But we are an industry that has worked really hard with its growers and cider is now recognised as a great product. So in all honesty I would like to think that this will not hit sales."

But NACM's Chevallier said in a statement: "What makes this so serious is that cider makers have invested millions to plant thousands of acres of new orchards in the last decade.

"Orchards take years to yield a return and the loss to the rural economy and the environment will be enormous if sales decline sufficiently and the demand for English apples falls. It is the major brands that use the vast majority of the UK fruit the industry buys every year.'

"When Gordon Brown then Alistair Darling left us alone for a few years our investment and innovation doubled the value of the cider market and doubled the contribution we made to government, all that might now be at risk."

Meanwhile, the increase - aimed to bring the cost of cider in line with that of beer - has angered so many cider fans that angry drinkers have launched a Downing Street petition against the hike.

Magners Cider has also launched a tactical press campaignby claiming it will cover the cost of increase for its customers.

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