Hundreds of orchards all over England will be chopped down now or left to rot because the EU has decided to slap a tax on small-scale cider producers.
The announcement was made last February 26th. Previously under EU law anyone who produced less than seven thousand litres per year was exempt from tax. This enabled small-scale craft producers to make limited quantities of cider for a discerning drinker, and sell it at farmer's markets or farm shops. A lot of these will now go out of business because their profit margin is so small and the paperwork is just another headache.
It seems perverse from every reasonable point of view to be clobbering the cider-makers. They are an important part of our farming tradition.
The National Association of Cider makers has repeatedly called on the government to reduce duty on their product. This year they requested an exemption on duty for small scale cider producers. It did not happen. Instead, the EU upped their tax.
Cider-making is a highly environmentally-friendly activity that creates seven thousand jobs in the countryside, and could create more since the demand for the product is growing. Orchards of apple and pear trees are also ideal for encouraging bees, many species of which are threatened. Yet the industry meets with nothing but obstacles and disapproval. Growers of cider apples would love to be able to plant more orchards and expand their production, but they dare not invest money when the duty is so high and always liable to arbitrary hikes.
So we face the absurd situation of England, an ideal country for the growing of apples and pears, having to import apples and juice from abroad to make cider. Beautiful orchards are destroyed or built over. It does not make sense.