Ontario cider, spirit makers get support program

Ontario’s small-scale fruit cideries and distillers are getting provincial support to help scale up production.

The province on Tuesday announced it would budget $4.9 million over three years for a new Small Cidery and Small Distillery Support Program.

The program will provide eligible cideries with up to 74 cents per litre and eligible distillers with up to $4.42 per litre on eligible sales, up to a maximum $220,000 per year per producer.

Ontario Craft Cider Association chair Thomas Wilson said the government “has launched a new age in craft beverages here in Ontario using locally grown Ontario apples.”

The program, he said, is “tremendous news, not just for the 27 Ontario craft cider makers who are members of the OCCA, but all 43 cider-producing operations in Ontario and the 230 Ontario apple growers who supply the fruit used to make Ontario’s new favourite drink.”

OCCA members, he said, are required to use 100 per cent Ontario apples for their cider, so the program will “ultimately result in more apple trees in the ground and increased rural economic activity from farm to glass.”

Ontario also has “over a dozen” small distilleries in communities including Guelph, Barrie, Codrington and Picton, the government said.

Jan Westcott, CEO of national spirit producer group Spirits Canada, on Tuesday described the province’s announcement as “a tacit admission that taxes, levies and markups on spirits in Ontario are excessive” compared to beer and wine “and constitute a significant barrier to entry.”

Spirits Canada on Tuesday also called for Ontario to “ensure any financial assistance is made available to all distillers who mash, ferment, distill and mature their full product line, whether their facility is located in Ontario, another Canadian province or anywhere in the world.”

Spirits producers, Westcott said, “must ensure we abide by all the terms of Canada’s agreement on internal trade, as well as our (World Trade Organization) and (free trade agreement) obligations and that means providing the same policy treatment and market access for all producers.” — AGCanada.com Network

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