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Government invests $15-million in Ontario’s grape and wine industry

On Friday, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Ernie Hardeman was joined by Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff to announce a one-year transition funding of over $15 million dollars to help small wineries, cideries and distilleries with key business decisions and planning while the government continues to conduct its review of the beverage alcohol sector.

“Our government’s priority is to make Ontario more competitive, and this includes strengthening the craft producers’ sector,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “By delivering these transition programs, we are recognizing the urgent needs of the industry and helping small and medium-sized wineries, cideries and distilleries scale up, drive tourism, and increase demand for quality Ontario grapes, apples and grains.”

(In top photo: L to R: Bill George, Chair, Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers’ Association; Matthias Oppenlaender, Chair, Grape Growers of Ontario; Del Rollo, Chair, Winery & Growers Alliance of Ontario; Debbie Zimmerman, CEO, Grape Growers of Ontario; Sam Oosterhoff, MPP, Niagara West; Carolyn Hurst, Westcott Vineyards and Vice Chair, Ontario Craft Wineries; Hon. Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; John Fedorkow, 2019 Grape King; Sandra Easton, Mayor, Town of Lincoln; Richard Linley, President and CEO, Ontario Craft Wineries)

“The Grape Growers of Ontario welcomes the transitional support of the Government of Ontario, and thank MPP Sam Oosterhoff and the Minister for recognizing that focusing on 100% Ontario grown wines provides a future for Ontario grape growers and our 18,000 industry related jobs,” says GGO Chair Matthias Oppenlaender.

This transition funding will also extend support to the following initiatives:

• The Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) Wine Support Program to help Ontario wineries increase competitiveness and innovation. The program supports wineries investing in growing their VQA wine business, including tourism development activities.

• The Small Cidery and Small Distillery Support Program to help eligible businesses grow and scale up their operations.

• Marketing, Tourism and Export Development; Performance Measurement and Research and Development Initiatives.

Minister Hardeman also announced that the government is making further changes to reduce red tape for the sector, making it easier for wineries, cideries, breweries and distilleries to market their products:

• Giving wineries, cideries, breweries and distilleries with a “By the Glass” licence the flexibility to extend the allowed service hours from 9 a.m. to 12 a.m., seven days a week.

• Allowing authorized wineries to sell their wine at farmers’ markets and return unsold products to their on-site retail store within a 72-hour period. The previous 24-hour period forced wineries to bring products back and forth over the course of the weekend which made retailing at farmers’ markets not economically viable.

“As producers of VQA wines who compete with the best in the world, we love what we do, and we are proud of the jobs and opportunities we are creating to help build Ontario’s agricultural and tourism sectors,” said Len Pennachetti, Chair of Ontario Craft Wineries. “Today’s announcement gives wineries the certainty they need to continue to create top-quality products that consumers want — all while supporting rural economies and small businesses throughout Ontario. We will continue to work with the Ontario government on longer-term solutions that help ensure farmers, workers and winemakers thrive for years to come.”

Source: Information provided to Wines In Niagara from two different industry sources