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Effects of Alberta's B.C wine boycott already being felt by local wineries

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PENTICTON - It hasn’t taken long for the Alberta wine boycott to have an affect on B.C. wineries.

British Columbia Wine Institute President and CEO Miles Prodan said today, Feb. 13, the damage has already been done, as Alberta retail shelves and restaurant coolers are emptied of B.C. wine products.

“We’ve been hearing from a number of B.C. wineries, who are telling us the boycott is now affecting them. There are no longer any B.C. wines available in Alberta, and that is going to have long-term implications,” Prodan says.

With restaurants and retailers running out of B.C. stock, their only choice is to replace those products with wine from somewhere else, Prodan says.

“Once you lose that shelf space, that retail or restaurant listing, it’s very difficult to get it back. We’re no longer worried about the threat of boycott, it’s the immediate and long- term effect of a boycott we’re concerned about now,” Prodan says.

If the boycott ended today, that would bring no guarantee of wine flowing east to Alberta right away, as Prodan notes, that precious listing space isn’t automatically going to go back to British Columbia wine products.

“That’s a relationship between the retailer or restaurateur that’s very important,” he says.

The B.C. Wine Institute continues to look at every possibility to make up for the Alberta shortfall. Prodan says the institute is currently lobbying for more exposure in B.C. liquor stores, and more improved access to B.C. markets.

The group also continues to lobby for direct to consumer marketing, something allowed only in a handful of Canadian provinces, and Alberta isn’t one of them.

“That would help us avoid provincial government monopolies that discriminate against Canadian wines,” he says, adding it makes no sense Canadian products can’t be shipped to a Canadian.

“That’s what’s called interprovincial free trade,” he says.

Prodan says he’s looked into financial numbers with respect to the economic value of Alberta ownership in B.C. wineries, but figures are hard to come by.

“It’s no secret there is Alberta money invested in B.C wineries, but it’s hard to quantify. A lot of the evidence is anecdotal and there are a lot of silent  investors involved,” he says.

Finally, there is increasing concern of a stigma being attached to B.C. wine drinkers because of the boycott.

"In the wine industry today, we are now somehow being linked to the politics of the pipeline, and the worry is now the way it’s come about is if you drink B.C. wine, you’re somehow supportive of the government’s pipeline policy, and they’re not related at all,” Prodan says.

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