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WSTA members call on Government to reconsider proposed duty hikes on Port and sherry

Published:  09 December, 2021

New Government legislation will mean an additional 13% price increase overnight added to every bottle of fortified wine entering the country come January of next year, according to Steve Moody, chairman of Fells, which counts the Ports of Symington Family Estates, Blandy’s Madeira and Barbadillo sherries in its portfolio.

Moody, along with several other leading importers of fortified wines, spoke out in a joint statement after a meeting of Wine & Spirit Association (WSTA) members, where importers were said to be “fuming” at the proposed duty hikes on wines such as Port and sherry.

The proposed changes to the duty on fortified wine, part of a broader overhaul of the duty rates on alcohol and currently under a consultation period which runs until 30 January, would mark the largest alcohol tax rise in history, the WSTA added.

Miles Beale, chief executive of WSTA, commented: “If you like a glass of port or sherry at Christmas we suggest you make the most of it this year. It might be priced out of your Christmas shop in the future.”

He added: “Port and sherry producers and importers are incredibly concerned over proposed tax changes which would unfairly put the highest tax rises on their products - literally overnight. We are mystified by a proposal that embeds unfairness between products meaning that beer and cider will be taxed at much lower rates than sherry and port, which will force up the duty paid on some fortified wines by as much as £1 or more.”

On behalf of WSTA members, Beale appealed to Government to ensure that the UK trade isn’t left with a new system that is demonstrably less fair and more administratively complex than the existing system, saying that these were the tests the Treasury set itself.

2020 saw a rise in the sales of Port in UK shops and supermarkets with 8.4 million bottles sold, while this year sales have grown further still with a forecasted 10 million bottles expected to be sold by the end of the year - an overall increase of 4%.

Sherry has shown a similar trend with 10 million bottles sold in 2020, up 13% from the previous year.

The new tax rise will undoubtedly affect these trends over the coming years, said the WSTA, hitting trade between producers of Port and sherry in Portugal and Spain respectively and one of their key markets, the UK

With the end of January deadline for the implementation of tax increase, producers are keen to express their concern now before it is put into motion and encourage the trade to speak out collectively in the hope that Government will listen.