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UK exempt from EU planting ban

UK wine producers have got the New Year’s resolution they were hoping for – exemption from the EU-wide planting ban.

UK producers were concerned that under the EU planting ban, which has been extended until 2015 as part of the wine reform, they would have had to stop any further planting of vines once production exceeded 3.3 million bottles, averaged over five years. But as the UK has been steadily producing more quality wine, especially within the sparkling wine sector, and demand from both domestic and overseas markets has never been higher, the UK’s representative body, the UK Vineyards Association (UKVA), argued that capping the expansion of this vibrant, unsubsidised industry would fly in the face of the new Common Agricultural Policy, designed to make the EU wine industry more competitive.

The UKVA worked closely with Defra, the National Farmers Union and MEPs to lobby against the restrictions. Bob Lindo, chairman of the UKVA Council, said, ‘If you had told me at the beginning of our campaign that we would get virtually all of our demands in such a short time, then I wouldn’t have believed you. The House of Lords Select Committees were right “on side” from the very beginning. Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat (and UKIP) MPs, MEPs and Peers all supported us.’

Mike Roberts of RidgeView Wine Estate and a key member of the UKVA’s EU Wine Reform Working Group, said, ‘Our recent and current rate of planting will yield a production of over four million bottles by 2012 – an increase of over 100% of our present production. Further expansion is planned for this and the next years and we foresee our production may well double again. The UK is building a demand for what is now recognised as world-class and competitive wines, without any subsidy or market assistance from the EU. We have fulfilled the prime objective of the EU Commission’s wine reform – to have European countries produce what the consumer wants. The EU has acknowledged our efforts by exempting us from the planting ban.’