Drinks Ireland creates coronavirus recovery plan

29th April, 2020 by Nicola Carruthers

Trade body Drinks Ireland has released a seven-point plan to help the industry recover from the coronavirus pandemic, which calls for the creation of a working group and the abolishment of punitive tariffs.

Jameson Irish whiskey

Drinks Ireland predicts a loss of 70%-80% of visitors to the the industry’s tourist attractions in 2020

The trade body, which represents drinks manufacturers, brand owners and distributors in Ireland, said the coronavirus crisis has “severely impacted” the country’s drinks industry due to on-trade closures and the restriction of supply in the off-trade.

The drinks industry supports more than 90,000 jobs in Ireland. In 2019, Irish alcoholic drinks exports reached €1.45 billion (US$1.57bn), boosted by Irish whiskey.

The trade group’s new seven-point policy priority plan seeks to “safeguard the industry as it weathers the Covid-19 crisis”.

Patricia Callan, director of Drinks Ireland, said: “The drinks industry, like many other sectors in Ireland’s economy, has been severely impacted by Covid-19. From the on-trade closing, to exports slowing and visitor centres closing, revenue streams are under severe pressure and it is vital that a range of supports and measures are put in place to support jobs and to allow the sector to continue delivering for the Irish economy.

“The sector is comprised of many small and craft producers, supporting local economies in towns and villages around Ireland, but also large businesses that deliver huge exports and exchequer returns for the country, and who have valuable expertise from operations in export markets to help support the safe re-opening of the hospitality sector here.”

Drinks Ireland said that producers should be allowed to continue to operate, as is currently the case, in accordance with relevant protocols. The group is also calling on the Irish government to help brands “recover and regain market position and share”.

Drinks Ireland said the government should implement an “ambitious programme of support – of up to 70% – to allow companies to directly and exclusively employ graduate brand ambassadors in key markets for at least 12 months”.

In addition, the trade association said the plan around reopening the hospitality and tourism sectors is “far from clear” and is urging policy makers to create a working group for the agreement of a clear road map for the industry’s reopening.

Drinks Ireland also said the closure of distillery and brewery visitor centres, which attracted three million visitors in 2019, “has severely impacted jobs and revenue”.

The trade body said the industry’s visitor attractions are “highly dependent” on global visitors and is calling for“proactive support and promotion” for when they reopen. Drinks Ireland predicts a loss of 70%-80% of visitors to these attractions in 2020, with “further significant declines” expected in 2021 depending on how long it takes for international travel and tourism to recover.

Swift action needed

Drinks Ireland has also called for “swift action” to aid businesses with their cashflow. This includes the delay of all further excise and VAT payments until the pandemic has passed, the cancellation of the commercial rate charge for the duration of the crisis and a guarantee that the current wage subsidy will not be subject to a tax review at the end of 2020.

Drinks Ireland is also calling for direct online selling for the craft industry as “many craft producers do not have good off-trade reach in the domestic market”. The trade group estimated that alcohol sales in Ireland are down 30%.

Furthermore, Drinks Ireland is urging the Irish government to actively propose that the European Union seeks to accelerate a mutual deal with the US on the elimination of all tariffs. The US imposed a 25% tariff on a range of EU imports, including Irish cream liqueurs and other Irish liqueurs.

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