CIDER producers in central Victoria say a proposal to tax cider at the same level as pre-mixed spirits would put them out of business.
The distilled spirits industry is calling for an alcohol tax overhaul and, in a budget submission, proposes that traditional cider have its tax rate lifted from roughly 23 cents per standard drink to the level paid by ready-to-drink spirits which is around 95 cents tax per drink.
Cider Australia, a coalition of cider growers, producers and manufacturers, is fighting back and has written to all members of parliament in the lead up to the May budget arguing the proposal would destroy a local industry that is creating jobs in the agricultural and manufacturing sector.
Henry of Harcourt owner Drew Henry is a member of Cider Australia and yesterday spoke about the differences between traditional cider and pre-mixed drinks.
He said the proposed tax hike didn’t make any sense and, if it came to light, would have dire flow-on effects within the community.
“For me personally, if I didn’t do anything about it, it would put us out of business,” he said.
“We don’t make alcopops.
“We make cider – it’s basic simple wine making.
“We grow our own fruit and use white wine making procedures.”
The distilled spirits industry argues that to consumers, ciders and pre-mixed spirits are the same, contain the same level of alcohol and should therefore be treated the same by the Tax Office.
Mr Henry said there was a big difference between the traditional cider he makes and beverages such as Rekorderlig which he described as artificial ciders.
“It hasn’t got any apples in it,” he said. “It’s so far off from what we’re doing that it’s a world away.
This whole thing does make me annoyed.
“The government was told when it bought in the alcopop take that it wouldn’t work and it hasn’t worked.
“I don’t think going and taxing another section of the industry will work either.
“It doesn’t make sense.
“The problem is not the tax.
“The problem is availability, 24 hours, and the price wars between the two supermarkets – that what the alcohol problem is related to.”
Mr Henry said if cider tax increases were introduced he would have to rethink the way he promoted Henry of Harcourt’s product to avoid paying higher tax.
Mr Henry also spoke about the success of Harcourt Cider – a joint venture by Henry of Harcourt, The
Little Red Apple and Bress Wine, Cider and Produce to procure apples and pears from growers to make ciders under the Harcourt Perry and Cider Makers label.
Mr Henry said the initiative first came about as a way to use hail-damaged fruit and found a use for fruit that was otherwise hard to find a home for.
“If they tax us the way they’re talking about we’d have to close down,” he said.
“That would have a flow-on effect – the fruit growers will miss out and also people we employ to crush and press.
“It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Bress Wine, Cider and Produce owner Adam Marks said the tax proposal would be catastrophic for business.
“We’d have to desist from making cider,” he said.
“Cider made from real apples and not concentrate should be exempt – especially apples grown in this country.”
- with The Age