Thursday, 14 December 2017
· Irish specific labels will be ‘logistical nightmare’ and ‘barrier to free trade’ – Irish Wine Association
· A Minimum Unit Price on alcohol will drive up wine prices across all price categories
The Irish Wine Association (IWA), which represents wine importers and distributors in Ireland, has strongly opposed the labelling proposal in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill today, stating that the draconian measure will have a devastating effect on Ireland’s wine importers. The labelling changes proposed in the bill will mean less choice for consumers, an increase in business costs and it could lead to higher prices.
The Alcohol Bill proposes mandatory cancer warning labels on all alcohol products sold in the Republic of Ireland. This proposal along with other labelling requirements, will effectively mean an ‘Irish only’ label for all alcohol products sold in the Republic of Ireland, including imported alcohol. The association says that the prospect of wine importers and possibly wine producers printing a label specific for the Irish market, while operating within the free trading block of the European Union, would become a logistical nightmare. The legislation will mean that all Irish bound wine will have to be labelled differently and stored separately in warehouses across the world. This will add to the business costs for wine importers which might result in higher prices for consumers.
Ireland is a relatively small market and making special accommodations for such a small market is both costly and inefficient. This will make Ireland an unviable market to export wine to. This will especially impact smaller wine producers selling their specialist boutique wines to the Irish market.
The Alcohol Bill also proposes a Minimum Unit Price on wine, which will also drive wine prices up further across all price categories. Ireland already has the highest rate of excise on wine in the EU, making up €3.19 for every €9 bottle of wine sold here. Ireland also has the most expensive alcohol in the EU, according to Eurostat.
Jim Bradley, chair of the Irish Wine Association and chairman of Febvre & Company, one of the country’s largest wine distributors, said:
“The alluring charm of wine is the variety that is on offer for consumers. Today, Irish consumers are more sophisticated when it comes to food and today they are blessed with an array of some of the world’s finest wines, which is ideal for food pairing. Unfortunately, this bill poses a threat to the variety currently on offer to Ireland’s wine drinkers.
“In my forty years working in the business, I have also never witnessed a Government attempting to introduce such a damaging piece of legislation. While the wine industry fully supports the objectives of the Alcohol Bill, to tackle harmful drinking and underage consumption, it is important that any measures that are introduced as evidence-based. The evidence that the Department of Health has presented on the Alcohol Bill’s effectiveness to tackle alcohol misuse is questionable at best.”
The Alcohol Bill could be interpreted as a barrier to the free movement of goods within the European Union. In addition to the practical challenges around printing separate labels, segregation measures in warehouses and shipping costs, the legislation also puts Ireland at odds with 10 EU Member States, most of which are wine producing nations, who have openly voiced concern about the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.
Ignacio Sanchez Recarte, Secretary General of the Brussel’s-based Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins - the association representing European wine companies said:
“The Public Health Alcohol Bill has alarmed other EU member states, ten of whom have submitted formal complaints to the European Commission about the bill. Only one other piece of national legislation has received more complaints in recent years. Furthermore, it is alarming that 18 months after all those complaints were submitted the Irish Department of Health has not yet responded to all the genuine concerns from Ireland’s European partners about the bill.”
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