Northern Irish drinks producers have called on the Government to reduce the burden of excise on alcohol sales in the UK in the budget next week.
Over six million cases of Irish whiskey, Irish cream liqueur and gin were produced in Northern Ireland in 2019, over 80% of which was exported to markets beyond the UK and Ireland.
Around one million cases were sold in the UK, from producers such as global players like Old Bushmills Distillery to newer businesses like Jawbox Gin.
And distilleries are also becoming important tourist attractions, as new enterprises like the revived Matt D'Arcy complex in Newry and Co Fermanagh's The Boatyard Distillery seek to emulate the success of Old Bushmills Distillery as a tourist attraction.
And Rademon, the Co Down estate where Shortcross Gin is produced, is also a visitor attraction.
Drinks Ireland, which represents the industry on both sides of the border, said a cut in excise in the budget next Wednesday would be a boost to the industry in Northern Ireland.
In its pre-budget submission, Drinks Ireland said a competitive UK market was crucial to Northern Ireland producers. And a cut in excise was all the more important as exports come under pressure following after a new 25% US tariff hit products such as Baileys and Bushmills.
Drinks Ireland called for more support for the drinks industry in Northern Ireland, including more funding for economic development agency Invest NI to support export activities.
Patricia Callan, director of Drinks Ireland, said the drinks industry was vital for Northern Ireland's economy.
She cited a spend of £8m by Diageo on its Marshalls Road site in east Belfast, as well as a spend of £60m by Bushmills owner Proximo on new facilities at its north coast site.
"Additionally, in 2019, Bushmills Distillery attracted over 150,000 paying visitors to the Causeway Coast," she said.
"Echlinville, Rademon Estate and the Boatyard distilleries also attract visitors with plans for further distillery visitor experiences in Newry, Donaghadee and Crumlin Road, Belfast.
"In order to maintain growth, we're calling for an excise reduction in the next budget.
"It's been the policy of the UK Government to increase excise duty on all alcohol by RPI at each budget.
"However, recent duty freezes in 2017 and 2018 have actually delivered higher revenues to the exchequer.
"The excise freeze announced in 2017 was projected to cost the Exchequer £180m in revenue.
"In fact, the Treasury made £380m more from spirits alone. The freeze announced in 2018 delivered the same in 2019.
"So, a restructuring of the excise system to reduce the burden of excise is not only good for consumers and the economy, but also the exchequer."