The Covid-19 pandemic had a hugely negative impact on Ireland’s cider sector in 2021 but there were some early signs of recovery in the second half of the year, according to a new report from Drinks Ireland|Cider. The report shows that both sales and exports fell drastically last year, with producers now calling for an excise reduction to support the sector, as well as the urgent implementation of an excise relief programme for craft producers.

Cider, like beer, is very popular in the on-trade, which was shut or heavily restricted for large parts of 2020 and 2021, both in Ireland and in key export markets. Last year, domestic sales declined by 4.2%. In total, they were down by 15.1% since 2019. Ciders share of the alcohol market in 2019 was 7.4%. By 2021, it fell to 5.8% which is a fall of 1.6 percentage points, as people shifted to wine and spirits when consuming at home. Exports were also very significantly hit, down by over a half (56.2%) in 2021 to an estimated value of €25 million.

Despite the major challenges, Drinks Ireland|Cider says there is some hope for optimism and signs of early recovery, as the second half of 2021 saw a 20% increase in cider sales. The trade body said that a full recovery and subsequent growth will be very challenging in the absence of support from Government, calling for an excise cut on alcohol. This would help bring Ireland in line with other countries, it says, as we currently have the third highest excise on cider in Europe, after Finland and Sweden. Jonathan McDade, Director of Drinks Ireland|Cider, said: “We very much welcomed last year’s announcement that an excise relief programme would be rolled out for small cider producers in Ireland and look forward to seeing details in this year’s Finance Bill, as this measure is urgent for the sector. In order to facilitate recovery, a wider alcohol excise cut is also vital. Currently, about 28% of a pint of cider is taken on tax. This is totally out of line with most of our European neighbours. A cut would support the sector, facilitating growth, the creation of jobs and in turn the wider economy.”