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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Stuart Peskett

The latest 4p increase in wine duty has caused leading members of the drinks trade to call for changes in the way a rise in excise is introduced. Christopher Carson, CEO of Constellation Wines Europe, and Mike Paul, MD of Western Wines, are among members of the Wine Trade Action Group (WTAG) Working Party' that has been charged by the WTAG to think up ideas that might break the current mould'. Carson said that introducing increases over a longer period would ease the pain felt by our industry'. This is an administrative burden on the industry for the retailer, producer and importer. Instead of these "annual" 4p increases, I wish the Government would work with our industry on the management of duty increases over a longer period,' Carson added. Paul criticised the whole Budget set-up, and said it created the scenario of a scene of retailers and importers huddled by the radio or television awaiting the news'. Only after the chancellor has spoken can any of us attempt to finalise our pricing strategy for the year. Is this really the way an increasingly professional industry should be obliged to behave?' The Wine and Spirit Association (WSA) director Quentin Rappoport said the Government had previously approached the WSA to ask our advice on the appropriate timing for introducing duty increases', but had then totally disregarded our recommendation of a four-week minimum.' Most producers and retailers said the rise was expected and had factored it in to prices. Richard Macadam, MD of United Wineries, said I don't think suppliers were unprepared - we're more surprised when it doesn't go up, to be honest. In most cases, retailers will come back to us and expect us to absorb the duty.'