WineGB welcomes Government advice which, in an effort to slow down the rise of Coronavirus, is urging the public to avoid social contact and stay away from pubs and bars. Whilst uncomfortable for many, it is right to follow the latest scientific advice; it has however intensified the effect that this current situation is having on the UK’s hospitality industry.
WineGB and its members are very aware that their trade customers, particularly those in the on trade, are encountering significant difficulties and WineGB fully supports calls being made by trade bodies such as British Hospitality Association (BHA), Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) and Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) asking for more urgent Government measures to be set in place to support cashflow and help businesses to stay afloat. WineGB welcomed the Chancellor’s additional £330bn package of financial measures yesterday. However, the package of support to the hospitality industry remains in reality a loan and given the margins this sector works on, it is unrealistic to expect these loans to be repaid. 53% of English and Welsh wines are sold through the UK trade (retail and on trade) (WineGB 2018 survey).
Most wine producers in the UK have cellar door facilities, restaurants, cafés, tours and even accommodation and are likely to suffer a significant loss of income over the coming weeks. If redundancies are to be avoided, Government support will be essential. UK wine producers are already reacting to the current situation, noting the growing demand for online shopping and accordingly are ensuring that smooth processing and delivery of orders is fulfilled.
Looking ahead, WineGB is urging the Government to ensure that there will be no hold up of freight traffic. This is important to vineyard and winery operations to ensure supply of bottles and other provisions including bottling services on which UK producers rely. Most of these supplies come from mainland Europe, and as wineries prepare for harvest so will their need to bottle the previous vintage currently held in tank and enable the 2020 harvest to be processed.
Another crucial element to many producers is an overseas workforce, which tends and harvests the vines and is impossible to replicate from a British workforce at this short notice. WineGB is concerned to ensure that the cross-border flow of temporary migrant workers is not compromised in any way.
There are a number of events and activities organised by WineGB taking place over the coming months. All are currently under review given the rapidly changing situation. Further announcements will follow shortly.