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UK wine inspectors will be left drowning in paperwork if Britain crashes out of the EU

A no deal Brexit will mean UK wine businesses have to jump through hoops to import wine into the UK with the introduction of new forms and laboratory test demands, the wine and spirit trade association warns.


Concerned officials from Whitehall are holding emergency meetings to discuss how to cope with the extra paperwork which is anticipated to treble their work load overnight.


Costly new form filling will result in an estimated additional £70 million bill for the wine trade. When added to wine duty hikes, enforced by the Chancellor earlier this month, as well as the introduction of wine tariffs and rising inflation - a no deal Brexit will mean UK wine consumers face a budget busting rise in prices.


Any wine entering the EU from outside countries has to be accompanied by a VI-1 form. If Britain falls out of the EU without a deal an estimated 500,000 new VI-1 forms, all accompanied by a lab test, will be required to keep wine flowing in from Europe.


Wine leaving the UK for the EU will also have to complete a VI-1 form - meaning an estimated additional 150,000 forms which will put a strain on wine exports, the UK’s 6th most valuable food and drink export.


Each form comes at a price – estimated to be around £20 per two-page document – which has to be filled out by hand.


Under the current system, as a member of the EU, the UK has access to the EU’s Excise Movement Control System (EMCS) which tracks alcohol coming in and going out of the country documenting consignments electronically.


EMCS allows all alcohol categories to and from the EU to be moved on with no extra checks of costs. However, a no deal Brexit will mean the UK loses EMCS which is likely to see ports descend into chaos.


The new regime outside of the EU will mean European wine producers will have to pay to fill out a form and on top of that cough up for extra laboratory tests for every consignment of wine sent to the UK, no matter how big or small.


The industry’s ties with the EU run deep – 55% of wine consumed in the UK is imported from the EU.


The burden, particularly on small wine producers that often stock independent wine merchants, is likely to be too great and in some cases wine supplies from smaller vineyards into the UK are expected to dry up.


But the extra form filling won’t just leave the wine industry with a headache, UK wine inspectors will find themselves drowning in processing the paperwork.


Every handwritten VI-1 form will have to be scrutinised and stamped before wine from Europe is allowed into the UK.


It is estimated that it would take 12 full time wine inspectors a whole year to process the half a million new VI-1 forms expected to mount up after a no deal Brexit. This does not take into account the other work carried out by Wine Standards who currently consist of a team of six regional inspectors.


Defra, which has overall responsibility for the movement of food and wine products, is working with the wine standards board and the WSTA on how to tackle the onslaught of added red tape.


Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said:


“The additional form filling and laboratory tests required for a no deal scenario will come as a real blow to exporters and importers alike. Wine inspectors will find themselves drowning in paperwork and - unless they can double their workforce - wine consignments are going to be held up by unnecessary additional red tape. The reality is that if we leave the EU without a deal wine businesses, big and small, will be facing a catalogue of extra costs which will ultimately be passed onto the British consumer.”


According to the latest figures from a report by EY, wine duty contributes £7.8 billion to public purse and the wine industry supports 189,000 UK jobs.


The WSTA has been advising members for over a year that they should increase their stock by 20% as a starting point in case of a no deal Brexit.


Advice which has been headed by many UK wine businesses including Direct Wines who are bringing in an additional 2 million bottles, about a 40% increase, on their usual stock. Bibendum PLB (as part of C&C) who say they have developed a “robust Brexit plan” which will see them ordering “significant” extra wine to have ready in stock. Majestic Wine also reported last year that they will hold another 1.5 million more bottles of European wine as part of emergency planning.


This month the WSTA repeated it’s call on Government for a temporary suspension on all wine tariffs until the end of 2020 in the event of a no deal which would massively reduce the strain on the supply chain. WSTA also called on the Government to review urgently the proposed import rules, including documentation, and to seek agreement from the EU to have continued access to EMCS.


It is also calling for fairer duty rates as wine was singled out at the last Budget for a duty rise when spirits and beer were given a freeze.


The WSTA last year launched its #NoToNoDeal Campaign - www.dontbottleit.co.uk, which sets out exactly why passing a deal with the EU is so crucial to the prospects of the UK’s world leading wine and spirit industry.


WSTA welcomes Government consultation on UK recycling

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association welcome’s the Government’s consultation on how best to improve bottle recycling in the UK.

However, the WSTA does not believe glass should be included in the DRS scheme and argues that kerbside collection is better for the consumer, businesses and the environment.

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said:

“We welcome the Government’s intention to tackle waste and improve recycling.

The UK wine and spirit industry has, for some years now, been working hard - and successfully - to reduce its impact on the environment, for example by shipping in bulk and using substantially less glass in its bottles. These sorts of changes have made a significant impact, and the UK already exceeds glass recycling targets - about 70% of glass packaging in the UK is recycled against a target of only 60%.

We remain unconvinced that glass drinks containers should be included within the scope of the proposed DRS scheme. Glass must be treated differently to plastic - glass cannot be compacted safely and efficiently, unlike plastic, and broken glass is much more likely to cause injury.

The reality is that following years of investment in recycling, councils across the UK already have well-established, trusted and efficient doorstep recycling schemes. Changes to this system, which could instead see consumers themselves burdened with returning glass bottles to point of purchase, are unnecessary. Changes would also pose storage issues for retailers, especially SMEs. Many nations across the world have excluded glass from their DRS systems in favour of kerbside collection, a system that is already working well in the UK.

Including glass in any DRS system would serve only to undermine existing recycling schemes, and would be highly likely to undermine achievements to date. 

British Gin boosted by exports

The latest figures from HM Revenue and Customs show that British gin sales abroad, in 2018, were worth £612 million – up 15% on the previous year.

In 2016 export sales of the juniper-based spirit broke the half a billion-pound mark for the first time and since then the popularity of British gin has seen sales continue to soar.

Thanks to the growing interest in British gin, which has been dubbed the ‘ginaissance’, UK gin exports are worth more than double the sales in 2010, which reached just over £288 million.

Britain sends more gin around the world than it does beef or beer, with gin sales overseas worth 28% more than beer sales.

The USA remains the largest importer of UK gin, with sales to the US worth £191 million, up almost £13 million on 2017. Australia has also caught on to the British gin phenomenon spending
£24.4 million on British gin, twice as much as they did in 2017 when they splashed out £12.2 million.

British Gin sales have also seen a surge in South Africa with £14.5 million sold last year, up from £4.5m in 2017 - a massive 222% increase.

Switzerland is another country where the popularity of British gin is rapidly rising and is now worth £6.6 million up from £4.8 million in 2017, growing by 38%.

By region, the EU is still by far the biggest destination for UK gin worth almost £290 million, with the European market up 14% on 2017.

The WSTA is calling on Government to support British gin exporters and allow them to capitalise on the thirst for all things ‘Brand Britain’ in established and emerging markets.

WSTA Chief Executive, Miles Beale, said:

“The global thirst for British gin shows no sign of slowing and there is no doubt that those overseas are drawn to the quality of gin made here in the UK. Gin is a quintessentially British spirit, and perfect for anyone looking to tap into Brand Britain overseas.

Europe represents a huge market for British gin, therefore it essential that the UK does not leave the EU without securing a deal which allows frictionless trade.
It is hugely important that Government also secures free trade deals with the rest of the world and we are encouraged by mutual recognition agreements already signed with countries like Australia and Switzerland. However more must be done, and quickly, so that we maintain our position as the world's largest spirits exporter and further boost the UK economy and provide more jobs.”

In a bid to help boost British gin exports further the WSTA is running a programme of export missions showcasing some of our best spirit producers. The WSTA has recently been working with DIT to showcase British gin taking our members on trade missions to Copenhagen, Madrid, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Domestic gin sales recorded in 2018 showed almost 66 million bottles of gin, worth over £1.9 billion, were sold in 12 months, up 41% in volume on the same period the previous year.

Pink drinks are on the up

Valentines Day traditionally sees a surge in sales of pink drinks and this year there are more shades of pink products available than ever before.

2018 was a record year for gin sales with Brits buying 66 million bottles of gin in 12 months, up 41% on the same period the year before and worth over £1.9 billion.

A huge part of the gin surge last year was down to sales of pink and flavoured gin as Britain has seen hundreds of new products coming onto the market.

Flavoured gin has driven over half of all growth in gin sales in the last recorded 12 months, despite only making up one fifth of total sales. Almost three quarters of the flavoured gin sector’s growth has been driven by pink gin. 

Two years ago only a handful of brands were making flavoured gin, then last year the category was valued at £165 million, up a whopping 751% on the same period the previous year.

Research has shown that the explosion in the flavoured and pink gin category comes down to its appeal to consumers under 45.

The category is expected to continue to grow in 2019 as brands are set to launch new flavoured and pink gins on to market.

But it’s not just gin sales that have left drinks producers tickled pink, in 2018 sales of rosé in Britain’s supermarkets, off licences and shops were up on the previous year for the first time in five years.

The WSTA’s latest figures show that Brits bought over 100 million bottles of rosé, in the off trade in the last recorded 12 months, over 2 million more bottles than in the previous year, with value growth of 5%.

After record sales of rosé last year, Aldi supermarket has said they are expecting to sell an impressive 13 million bottles in 2019, enough to fill four Olympic swimming pools.

According to the WSTA’s latest market report although it sells in much larger quantities red wine’s volumes decreased slightly, whilst white wine sales stayed stable.

And in the cocktail category we have seen an explosion in popularity of herbal bitter liqueurs and red-orange aperitif’s mixed with sparkling wine. These drinks served in pretty stem glasses have proved very ‘Instagrammable’ and consumers were keen to share their snaps of the vibrant, colourful cocktails on social media.

During the 2018 heatwave Brits bought over 4 million bottles of non-cream liqueur cocktails from our supermarket’s and shops. Astonishingly the sales were up 56% on the same 12 weeks the year before, the equivalent of an extra 1.4 million extra bottles.

Miles Beale Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said:

“Pink drinks are increasingly popular thanks to our innovative distillers and wine makers who are responding to consumer demands for quality drinks with a splash of colour. We have seen a massive increase in the choices of pink and flavoured gins, there are signs of a renewed fondness in rosé wines and liqueurs like Campari and Aperol mixed with sparkling wine have boosted Brits love of pink cocktails. The introduction of new products combined with a fantastic long hot summer has helped boost the pink category and Valentine’s Day will no doubt see another pink spike. There is no doubt that the pink category has benefited by consumers love for sharing vibrant, colourful drink trends on social media.”

Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi UK, comments:

“We usually see a rise in rosé sales as the weather gets warmer and we move into Spring, but recently we’ve started to see an increased demand for rosé all year round, thanks to drinkers who love to post about it on Instagram, and pair it with a variety of foods.

“To meet this rising demand, we’ve stocked our shelves already and are expecting an early rush on sales. Our new Beaujolais style will be joined by our biggest ever rosé collection this Easter, which we’re confident will be incredibly popular with our shoppers.”

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