The association of Belgian brewers is afraid that for the second time this year, France seems to be targeting beers with a severe tax as rumours of a “pre-mix tax” on tax residual sugar in beers continue to emerge.
Second blow in 2013
The increased taxes from earlier this year led to higher prices and “as expected, lower beer consumption rates” in France, according to the Belgian Brewers association: French beer consumption went down 10 % this year. The French government had hoped to get more revenue out of the duties, but due to lower consumption rates (and, therefore, lower income) it is now looking for other possible sources of income.
This new income “has apparently been found in the application of a 2005 law meant to tax the sugar levels in so-called ‘alcopops’ (a mixture of soda and alcohol)”, says Sven Gatz, Belgian Brewers’ CEO: "Up until this point, the law was only used for ‘alcopops’, but it seems the French government is now targeting residual sugar levels in beer. Even though most maltose gets turned into alcohol during the fermentation process, nearly all beers still have a certain amount of residual sugar after fermentation.” Especially the fruit beers are likely to suffer under the new tax, possibly costing up to 2 euro more per glass.
62 % of the beer Belgium produced last year was exported, most of which went to France. Avoiding a second price increase in less than a year is therefore paramount for the Belgian brewers, who are happy that Minister of Finances Koen Geens has written a letter to his French counterpart to tackle this alcohol problem.
The elevation of the elevated duties earlier this year resulted in Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo going to Paris to plead in favour of Belgium’s brewers. President Hollande did not have any sympathy for the Belgian cause. Gatz still has faith however, as he stated in newspaper Het Nieuwsblad: “Even someone who has no understanding of beer must admit there is absolutely no correlation between Belgian fruit beers and so-called alcopops.”
(Translated by Gary Peeters)