Within hours of becoming Chair of the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) Martin Thatcher delivered a strong message to MPs and government officials at a packed Westminster reception last week.
Representing an industry worth over £3bn a year in sales and supporting over 10,000 jobs directly and indirectly, Martin used his first keynote address to promise that producers will deliver an even greater contribution to UK plc if government policy recognises the unique nature of cider and critically the long-term planning and commitment required.
Earlier in the day, Martin, whose family has been at the heart of cidermaking in Somerset for four generations, chaired a meeting of cider industry leaders that highlighted the potential for future success if stability on duty was delivered enabling even greater investment and innovation.
He said: “Freezing the duty on cider and scrapping the Duty Escalator in the spring was great news, though the benefit will be short-lived if government fails to recognise that the investment decisions we make tie us to commitments that last decades.
“When we talk to growers and farmers about planting new orchards we are asking them to accept no income for a couple of years and to wait seven years for a full crop, weather permitting.
“They will only contemplate doing that if we guarantee to buy their apples for twenty-five years and if we can convince them that we will continue to invest to increase consumer appeal with a broader and innovative range of great ciders that people want to buy.
“Cider has a bright future – the fact that cider makers and growers are prepared to make that commitment is testament to their confidence – with support from government we can deliver that potential and do more to support the rural communities we are part of.”
The unique nature of the British cider trade was at the heart of discussions at the bi-annual cider reception, which is jointly hosted by the Parliamentary Cider Group and National Association of Cider Makers (NACM).
The politicians and officials present heard that the cider makers are sticking to their commitment to increase the area planted as orchards by 10 per cent in the next few years.
Martin Thatcher said: “In cider we have a very special, British success story.
“We’re unlike any other UK industry or indeed any other drinks industry around the world.
“The large number of small, independent producers here in the UK stands us apart and is something for us all to be proud of. Recognition of how and why we are different and the great contribution we make in terms of rural employment and creating fabulous natural habitats for wildlife is vital if we are to continue to make the contribution we do – that is why taking our message directly to Westminster is really important.”