Expatica news

French taxman targets Belgian beers

6 January 2005

BRUSSELS – Fruity Belgian beers like Kriek and Framboise are the latest victims of punitive French taxes, it emerged on Thursday.

La Libre Belgique reported that two years ago France hit 25 Belgian beers with a tax on beers with more than 8.5 degrees of alcohol.

The move would have made life difficult for trappist and Abbey beers in France, but Finance Minister Didier Reynders eventually won a concession from his French counterpart for Belgian brewers.

Now France has introduced a law aimed at discouraging young drinkers. A law passed by the Parliament in April, which came into force this month, has introduced a tax on ‘alcopops’ and alcohol mixes like Bacardi Breezer.

The definition of an alcopop, though, will mean many Belgian fruit beers have found they too will have to pay extra. The law applies to drinks with more alcohol than 1.2 percent and less than 12 percent and with more than 35 g of sugar a litre.

“It’s doubled the sale price of the beers concerned, making them therefore unsellable on the French market,” said Philippe Lefebvre of Lefebvre brewery.

The company has just introduced an apple Newton and a cherry Kriek in France. “The market was developing very quickly. The importer is going to send us back the barrels,” he said.

The company had hoped to double sales this year in France. It hopes that Belgium’s fruit beers can win an exemption from the new tax before the busy summer season.

Some beers like lambic, faro and classic Kriek are already exempt from the law, safeguarded through being beers attached to a specific region.

Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has taken up the case of the Belgian breweries with his French peer Jean-Pierre Raffarin, and the question was also raised with French president Jacques Chirac during the latest EU summit.

The Belgian Brewers have also complained to the European Commission that France is operating a protectionist policy which targets only Belgian beers.

The brewery InBev is not waiting for an exemption, however, and has changed its recipes in France to ensure its beers are not hit.

Its Kriek Extra has seen its sugar content reduced while Boomerang has had its alcohol content reduced to avoid a price hike from 0.93 cents to EUR 1.70.

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news