Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) has today warned that some of the measures in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which is expected to return to the Dáil in the coming months, will have a negative impact on local jobs, the rural economy and Ireland’s reputation as a producer of world class food and drinks products.
Unlike many other industries, the drinks industry has a presence right across the country. In the Republic of Ireland, where the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill would be implemented, there are now craft breweries in every county, operational or planned Irish whiskey distilleries in 22 counties and 14 operational or planned Irish gin distilleries. Furthermore, there are brewery or distillery visitor centres in 11 counties, with planned visitor centres being developed in another 11.
However, the industry has warned that the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, if implemented in its current form, could hinder this growth.
Pat Rigney of the Shed Distillery in Drumshanbo Co. Leitrim, which produces the world-renowned Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, said: “Our distillery is based in deepest rural Ireland, on the edge of a lake in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim. Since setting up in 2014, we have invested over €3m million in the area, have driven vital employment in the region and are now exporting our products to over 28 countries including the UK, France, Denmark, Switzerland, the US and beyond. We are also currently investing €2m in our new visitor centre, which will drive local tourism and job creation when it re-opens.
“We are proud of the quality and excellence of our products, which compete successfully on the world stage.
“While we support the objectives of the Alcohol Bill, to tackle harmful and underage drinking, it seems that some of measures, particularly the proposal to add cancer warning labels to alcohol products, will disproportionately harm our reputation and that of Ireland as a nation known for producing quality food and drinks brands. It will also put local businesses and precious rural jobs at risk. We would urge the Government not to disregard our significant contribution and that of other distilleries to the rural economy.”
John Quinn, Global Brand Ambassador of Offaly’s Tullamore DEW said: “We are continuing to grow our brand and export around the world, which is having a positive knock on effect on Offaly where we are based. So far, William Grant & Sons has invested over €100 million in Tullamore DEW, with a €25m investment last year. Additionally, we employ 120 people in Tullamore between the distillery, bottling hall and visitor centre and even more during the summer time.
“However, we are concerned about the potential negative impact of certain measures in the Alcohol Bill, particularly the requirement for cancer warning labels to be added to alcohol products. This will have a hugely damaging reputational impact on our products and industry. No other country in the world has mandatory cancer labels on alcohol products, and therefore such a measure is disproportionate and applies a stigma to products made in Ireland. The reputational damage to the category could be huge both in Ireland and, importantly, in export markets, thereby undoing all the hard work of the past 40 years.
“As an example of the negative reputational impact that will occur, we only have to look at our visitor centre, which welcomes 50,000 people from around the world every year. This is the biggest whiskey tourism attraction in the region and one of the biggest tourist attractions in the midlands. A major attraction for the visitors is the opportunity to buy some unique Irish whiskeys. If we put cancer warning labels on these products, we run the risk of compromising the quality message of our whiskeys and directing the tourists to other categories such as Scotch, Bourbon and other international spirits which would not feature such warnings. With such a loss of business we also run the risk of attracting less and less tourists to Tullamore and the midlands.”
Patricia Callan of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) also commented: “We are concerned that cancer warning labels will have a hugely damaging impact on Ireland’s food and drinks industry. At a time when the future of international trade is uncertain, with Brexit and trade wars, the Irish Government should not create an additional barrier to trade in the form of cancer warning labels. We are urging the Government to remove this requirement from the Alcohol Bill.”