Pictured at Darts Farm (left to right): Mark Hopper, Simon Jupp MP, Michael Dart and Barny Butterfield
East Devon MP Simon Jupp met with Sandford Orchards owner Barny Butterfield, Michael Dart from Darts Farm and Mark Hopper from the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) at a public event held by Darts Farm on Friday 21st May 2021.
After being given a tour of Darts Farm’s new restaurant and cidery, The Farm Table, and learning more about the cider industry, Simon listened to concerns about cider makers’ tanks remaining largely blocked with the 2019 and 2020 harvests, which may need to be destroyed to make way for this year’s apple harvest. Worse still, was the fear that without support, decades old cider apple orchards may vanish from the countryside. The impacts of the numerous COVID lockdowns, pubs, bars shut and cancelled festivals over the last 12 months, has left some apple growers and cider makers in a perilous position.
“Cider makers are asking for much needed support to allow them to recover from the impact of COVID and for the government to keep their pledge to reduce red tape for business,” said Mark Hopper NACM. “The Treasury review into how cider and other alcoholic beverages are taxed is an opportunity to provide much needed support for our industry, but cider makers are concerned about more complexity and added cost.”
Barny Butterfield said: “This year has tested so many businesses like ours, our loss has also been felt across the industry, with apple growers and pubs feeling the hurt even more keenly than ourselves. We are grateful to have survived the year, the next few years as the industry rebuilds will be critical and we need sympathetic support from our government to survive in the long term.”
“This part of Devon has an unrivalled history in cider making and folklore,” said Michael Dart, Director of Darts Farm. “We’re proud to support independent producers and during the pandemic we launched ‘Save our Cidermakers’, which helped to engage the public with the challenges faced by these producers. But there is so much more that is needed. Recently, we hosted our Franklin’s night feast where we enjoyed an evening celebrating cider’s rich history in our county, as well as the importance of cider to our identity and our future. We call on our government to protect this unique Devonshire industry for all of us.”
Barny Butterfield said: “Cider making depends on locally grown apples, but these orchards take the best part of a decade to reach full crop and can’t just be turned on and off to suit demand. After a very difficult year, we urgently need support to ensure that capacity is opened up and cider apple growers are able to sell their 2021 crop this autumn.
”Speaking after the visit, Simon Jupp said: “It’s great to see a prominent Devon business continue to be optimistic after such a challenging year. Cider duty was once again frozen in this year’s Budget to help support the hospitality sector and the wider supply chain. I will continue to support cider makers in East Devon and NACM to help champion and promote a level playing field for the industry.”
Founded in 2002 to top-up a farm labourer’s wage, Sandford Orchards now occupies the oldest working cider mill in the UK and has been responsible for a revival in traditional and modern orchards employing 30. It is a vocal supporter of the wider cider industry. www.sandfordorchards.co.uk
Over the past 25 years Darts Farm has been continually evolving to become one of the most exciting shopping experiences in the South West. Darts Farm remains a family business run by the Dart brothers; the retail looked after by Michael and James and the farm headed up by Paul. The business is, at its core, still a working farm, and sells all of its home-grown produce directly through the farm shop. www.dartsfarm.co.uk
- Darts Farm was named ‘Best South West Farm Shop’ in the Taste of the West Awards 2018 and was crowned the Winner of the ‘Best Farm Shop’ at the Food Reader Awards in 2020.
- With over 17,000 visitors a week, Darts Farm prides itself on its exceptional customer experience and the warm, friendly atmosphere around the store, enhanced by the Dart brothers’ hands on management, family involvement and their passionate members of staff.
- With Ruby Red Devon cattle grazing in the fields, Paul Dart and his team harvest a wonderful selection of fresh fruit and vegetables daily, which are sold in the food hall and used by the restaurant in their delicious seasonal dishes.
- Darts Farm can be found overlooking the beautiful Clyst Valley in the picturesque town of Topsham, near Clyst St George, on the outskirts of Exeter in Devon (EX3 0QH)
Photo: Richard Drax MP with Cider Maker Joe Hartle (left) and Mark Hopper (right)
South Dorset MP Richard Drax met with Cider Maker Joe Hartle from Purbeck Cider and Mark Hopper from the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) on the 28th May 2021.
After being given a tour of the orchards and learning more about the cider industry, Richard listened to concerns about cider makers’ tanks remaining largely blocked with the 2019 and 2020 harvests, which may need to be destroyed to make way for this year’s apple harvest. Worse still, was the fear that without support, decades old cider apple orchards may vanish from the countryside. The impacts of the numerous COVID lockdowns, pubs, bars shut and cancelled festivals over the last 12 months, has left some apple growers and cider makers in a perilous position.
“Cider makers are asking for much needed support to allow them to recover from the impact of COVID and for the government to keep their pledge to reduce red tape for business.” said Mark Hopper NACM “The Treasury review into how cider and other alcoholic beverages are taxed is an opportunity to provide much needed support for our industry, but cider makers are concerned about more complexity and added cost.”
Joe Hartle said “Cider making depends on locally grown apples, but these orchards take best part of a decade to reach full crop and can’t just be turned on and off to suit demand. The last 12 months have been extremely challenging but there have been some positives such as strengthening the relationships we have with our local community. We look forward to pubs, festivals and whole hospitality sector re-opening this summer.”
Speaking after the visit, Richard Drax “it is good to see a local business continue to be optimistic during what has been a difficult time. Cider duty was once again frozen in this year’s Budget to help support local pubs and the wider supply chain, but the NACM have made a number of arguments for the future and these issues are definitely something I will look at.”
Cider makers across the South West have responded to the continued absence of gatherings by launching a cyber celebration to mark South West Cider Week.
Such is the ingenuity and determination of producers around the region that a packed programme of events actually exceeds one week – stretching from Friday 12 June to Sunday 21 June.
During that time, cider drinkers and serious aficionados alike can enjoy online tastings, virtual tours, a cyber meet and greet with producers and even a drive through cider shop followed by an orchard walk.
The events are being organised by cider makers and retailers themselves, and co-ordinated through the website, www.swciderweek.org.uk and on social media using the hashtag #swciderweek.
As the oldest drink produced in the UK cider making in the South West is steeped in centuries of history. This is not by chance as it is the combination of the landscape, soil and weather that mean that apple orchards flourish in the region – especially those planted with the bittersweet fruit varieties that have made West Country ciders famous around the world. Though it is also a sector and a region noted for much of the innovation in terms of producing different styles of cider, orcharding practices and product manufacture.
The dozens of events that make up the South West Cider Week are being coordinated by the South West of England Cidermakers’ Association (SWECA).
Martin Berkeley of Pilton Cider is organising the SWECA involvement. He said: “Sharing a glass of cider in good company is a fabulous thing and vital to many of the social connections we make. It is also so important commercially for hundreds of businesses across our region.
“Whilst it might a while before we can gather in person, we were determined to see how we could still celebrate cider.
“The response, thanks to the imagination and resilience of cider makers has been fantastic and as a result, we will – virtually – invite the world to share our passion for the drink so synonymous with the South West.”
As well as showcasing the skills of cider makers and revealing the great matches with other regional produce like cheese, it is hoped that the series of events will also provide a much-needed boost to producers given lost sales through pubs and bars and the absence of tourism this summer.
The scale of the loss to producers is significant as a third of cider sales, representing two-thirds of the value, are through on-trade outlets. For 2019, that amounted to £2bn in sales (Westons Cider Report).
To amplify this effort many businesses are offering discounts for online sales and some specialist retailers are putting together mixed cases that reflect the great breath of quality drinks produced across the region.
Support for the South West Cider Week was immediately forthcoming from the body representing the UK cider industry – the biggest cider market in the world.
For the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM), Mark Hopper said: “We know that cider makers like nothing more than being able to share their craft with people – whether those consumers are new to cider or familiar with the many styles available.
“The continued absence of the chance to meet people in person is understood, though it has an impact.
“That producers right across the South West have come together to create ten days packed with different ways to enjoy cider is fantastic. We will do all we can to encourage people to join at least one of the events.”
The cider makers stepping up to the cyber challenge range from small producers new to the sector like Find & Foster and Ganley & Nash to established businesses of scale with hundreds of years of history like Sheppy’s and Thatchers Cider.
Details of the events are available at South West Cider Week and via the Twitter account, @swciderweek.
Market data from the Westons Cider Report, 2020:
- UK producers made around 783m litres of cider in 2019
- The value of sales in 2019 was worth £3.1bn
- On-trade outlets accounted for around a third of sales (38%) worth £2bn
- UK cider sales represent 37.5% of cider sales worldwide
Gordon Johncox, the chair of the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) and the chief executive of Aston Manor Cider, addressed MPs, government officials and industry figures to outline a British success story in need of support.
Gordon outlined how collaboration across the industry by cider makers of all scales is a positive feature, though the hard-pressed sector still needs support from government.
As a relatively small industry, representing the best interests of every cider maker informs all aspects of activity of the NACM. The vision of the association is that all producers can operate successfully and fairly in a competitive market, whilst continuing to support their communities, employees and apple growers.
To enable this, he called for a balanced regulatory environment for cider makers reflecting the unique circumstances of producers. In particular, MPs, Ministers and officials were urged to deliver a consistent application of regulations.
Gordon challenged the Government’s willingness to understand the specific situations of cider makers. While headlines from the Autumn budget stated that cider duty was frozen, ciders in the middle duty band received a 25% tax increase, impacting many small cider makers.
Following his speech, Gordon commented: “Cider businesses of all sizes are working hard to deliver a sustainable future for the benefit of consumers and the rural environment. The industry is a significant part of British heritage.
“We need the support of politicians to work with us to return cider to more positive results, remove red tape and the unnecessary rules that limit innovation and investment. This support can enable cider makers produce fantastic products that interest in our category.
“We work to see every cider maker flourish and grow in line with their ambitions, whilst maintaining the highest standards. We firmly believe that with our collaborative nature and how we support one another this can be achieved when we can rely on consistent and sensible legislation.
“In recent months we have seen members providing orcharding experts when others experience weather related problems, large companies have supported smaller producers to expand their packaging ranges. When something is challenging or if advice is needed, small producers will always be supported, and to me, this is why the UK cider industry is so very special.”
The Parliamentary Cider Group Reception was an opportunity to showcase the best of British cider, which is home to the largest cider market in the world. The evening was attended by cider makers from across the South West, Midlands and further afield, as well as many MPs that represent cider making regions within their constituencies.
The NACM is the UK cider industry representative body, working on behalf of large and small producers:
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