More support needed for beer industry

The NFU is urging the government to do more to help the beer industry flourish during the economic downturn by giving more support to the supply chain from farm to pub.

From barley and hops in the field, to the glass of beer in the local pub, the chain of industries behind brewing has a major impact on economic and social life in Britain. Around 270,000 rural jobs depend on brewing and pubs, with over £3.5 billion paid in rural wages.

However, with high taxes, heavy regulation, and falling beer consumption, the sector faces challenges which could be addressed and thousands more jobs could be created in the industry – if the government gets the policy framework right.

This was the conclusion of Grain to Glass, a new report from the NFU and the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), which demonstrates the huge importance to the brewing industry to the rural economy.

According to the report, supply is playing its part, with growers working hard to improve the quality of barley and hops and schemes like Red Tractor greatly enhancing the local provenance of British beers, but the Government could do more to help the industry to grow.

The report authors have put forward key policies they want the government to focus on support farmers, brewers, and publicans, and to create new jobs.

For brewing, the report advocates recommends a review of the structure and impact of beer duty on employment and growth in the rural economy.

For farming, it recommends more investment in crop research and development and less and better regulation – both on and off the farm and in transport.

Pubs should be given support and be seen as a vital part of tourism infrastructure and a review of the impact of red tape. And local authorities and planning committees should recognise the importance of the pub as the hub of rural communities and reflect it in their policies.

NFU president Peter Kendall said: “Beer and pubs are the beating heart of the British countryside, and farmers value the role that they play as community hubs, and in rural tourism, as much as anyone.

“But they are also a vitally important market. Sales of malting barley for brewing and distilling will be worth almost £400 million to British farmers this year, while the home-grown hop industry, after a long period of decline, is also showing signs of a revival, thanks to the real ale revolution.

“It’s in all our interests – not just farmers, brewers and publicans – but anyone who cares about this country’s economy, or loves the British countryside or enjoys a glass of beer – that we sustain the grain to glass supply chain, and everything that depends upon it, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

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