The chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has praised the resilience of the wine industry, though he also warned there are more challenges to come.
Speaking at the opening of this week’s London Wine Fair, Miles Beale said: “As we celebrate our resilience and some success, it is important to recognise that uncertain times lie ahead.”
He added the trade has demonstrated that for an industry built on tradition, “it has shown itself to be remarkably fleet-of-foot of late”, highlighting shifts towards online retailing and adapting to the post-Brexit trading environment.
He went on to outline the WSTA’s recent achievements, including the scrapping of VI-1 import certificates. “We estimate this has saved about £70 million,” Beale said.
He also flagged that the deposit return scheme (DRS) in England and Northern Ireland, which will now exclude glass: “The WSTA was for some time almost a lone voice in arguing against including glass in any deposit and return scheme. I am delighted we were able to convince Governments in Westminster and Belfast to think again.”
However, he pointed out disparities with other UK schemes.
“I cannot see the Scottish scheme working out cheaper for your businesses than the Extended Producer Responsibility scheme that will operate in England,” he said. “Nor can I see it delivering higher recycling rates. It’s not too late for politicians in Holyrood – and in Cardiff – to listen and reconsider. Industry wants one scheme rolled out across the UK. I fear that sort of pragmatism is beyond the party politics of the devolved administrations.”
Elsewhere, Beale talked about the chancellor’s proposals for revising the excise duty regime for wine, which he said will place a huge burden on UK producers, importers, retailers and ultimately UK consumers.
“It’s been a real challenge to get the Government to listen on duty reform, but thanks to the persistence and resistance of wine businesses across the UK, I believe we are beginning to get through to ministers,” he said. “In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a marked change in tone from the Government – but we must keep pushing.”
Beale went on to talk about inflation, which is expected to hit a 40-year high of more than 10% in the autumn, according to forecasts from the Bank of England.
“The UK economy is forecast to slow sharply at the end of the year and risks dipping into recession next year shrinking by 0.25%, down from the Bank’s previous forecast of 1.25% growth,” he said.
“I think I can say with that we are all facing a challenging economic and trading environment. Costs for raw materials and transport remain high with little sign of abating. Energy prices are climbing with future rises already baked in. And we don’t yet know how inflation is going to impact consumer confidence and what that will mean for our recovering sector.”
Looking forward, he said the WSTA would continue its work to represent the views of the sector to the Government, as well as “find and propose solutions”.
Despite the challenging environment, Beale finished by emphasising the resilience of the trade.