How protected status will impact Welsh cider

Larger grower raises concerns over Protected Geographical Indication.

Orchards: larger outfits unable to grow all fruit in Wales - image: HW
Orchards: larger outfits unable to grow all fruit in Wales - image: HW

Welsh traditional cider and perry have each been awarded Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status by the European Commission, but not all Welsh producers have welcomed the move.

The bids were initiated in tandem by the Welsh Perry & Cider Society (WPCS) in 2014 and backed by Defra. The applications make a number of stipulations including that the drinks should be made from 100 per cent first-pressed unpasteurised juice of cider apples or perry pears from "indigenous and non-indigenous varieties" grown in Wales, without artificial carbonation.

But Andy Gronow, owner of Pontypridd-based Gwynt y Ddraig (Welsh for "dragon’s breath"), which subtitles itself "The Welsh Cider & Perry Co", tells Horticulture Week: "We are Wales’ largest cider maker and have put Welsh cider on the map. Since we started it’s gone from four producers to 50 or 60."

Of the PGI bids, he says: "The smaller ones have been trying to push this through without thinking how it will affect the bigger ones like us. It’s OK for those growing all their own fruit, but we produce 1.2 million litres of cider and perry a year. You cannot source all that fruit from Wales and without pasteurisation the juice won’t last more than 12 hours, so they won’t find their way to any supermarket shelves."

Bottling and barrelling

Indeed, the official applications for both drinks state: "All bottling and barrelling... must take place within the geographical area", adding that they are "an unpasteurised ‘live’ product and to maintain quality, traceability, temperature control and the avoidance of any contamination, transportation
at this stage should be kept to a minimum, which precludes widespread bulk transport before
final packaging".

Gronow adds: "There is a case for making the distinction [between the English and Welsh drinks] as long as it doesn’t put obstacles in the way of producers such as ourselves. But this could come back to bite us."
WPCS board member Mike Penney explains: "In Wales there was no development of factory--based cider and perry production in the 19th and 20th century. Production in Wales remained largely farm- and craft-based, and underpinning the PGIs is that traditionally these drinks are 100 per cent juice, first-pressed products, which are a far cry from most commercially available ciders and perries.

"We do not expect that all ciders and -perries produced in Wales will meet the defined standards but most producers will have premium products that do and will use the PGI status to encourage more discerning consumption. I do not expect that PGI status will provide significant restrictions on those choosing not to comply with its standards, but will assist those trying to raise the awareness of premium compliant products and promote their consumption."

In February, meanwhile, the Commission accepted for evaluation a bid by north Wales growers to grant the similar Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status to the Vale of Clwyd Denbigh Plum, despite Brexit being only two years away.

An AHDB report in December concluded: "When the UK leaves the EU, registered protected food names should be able to benefit from EU protection against imitation, provided there is a reciprocal agreement between the UK and the EU."

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