A DORSET MP has vowed to support cider makers who have been left struggling in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, Richard Drax, MP for south Dorset, visited the Purbeck Cider Company in Wareham to speak to cider makers about how their businesses have been impacted by the Covid pandemic, which has seen pubs, restaurants and bars closed and festivals cancelled.

After taking a tour of the orchard, Mr Drax spoke to Purbeck Cider Company founder Joe Hartle and Mark Hopper from the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) about their concerns that cider makers' tanks are largely blocked with apple harvests from 2019 and 2020, which may need to be destroyed to make way this year's harvest.

In March 2021, Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, put a one-year rate freeze for all cider taxes, in a bid to help businesses get back on their feet after the pandemic.

However, cider makers are concerned that this will not be enough to ensure that they all stay in business and are concerned that without additional government support, cider apple orchards many not be financially viable and may vanish from the countryside.

Mr Hartle said: "Cider making depends on locally grown apples, but these orchards take the best part of a decade to reach full crop and can't just be turned on and off to suit demand.

"The last 12 months have been extremely challenging but there have been some positives such as strengthening the relationships we have with out local community. We look forward to pubs, festivals and the whole hospitality sector reopening this summer."

Mr Hopper added: "Cider makers are asking for much needed support to allow them to recover from the impact of Covid and for the government to keep their pledge to reduce red tape for business."

Mr Drax said: "It is good to see a local business continue to be optimistic during what has been a difficult time.

"Cider duty was once again frozen in this year's budget to help support local pubs and the wider supply chain, but the NACM have made a number of arguments for the future and these issues are definitely something I will look at."