By: NATASHA SMITH
THE PREVIOUSLY clandestine production of potent firewater, medronho, is fast becoming a fully legal industry as most distilleries in the Monchique hills have applied for licences at the câmara.
There is light at the end of the tunnel for medronho distillers who have fought for months, and in some cases years, to save the future of one of the Algarve’s most important local industries but bureaucratic red tape had been a problem, as reported in The Resident on March 9.
In Monchique alone, nearly every medronho producer has applied for a licence at the câmara. There are more than 90 applications being considered, while 16 have already been given full licences to operate and more than 30 new distilleries are in construction.
Three have also been given approval from customs and excise to export medronho, which will aid awareness about the product abroad and many distillers hope this will sustain the industry.
Monchique Câmara President, Carlos Tuta, said: “We are giving every technical support to the projects.”
As part of the approval of the licence, guidelines must be adhered to. Producers are obliged to bring their distilleries up to standard by making health and safety improvements. The walls surrounding the distilleries must be painted with eggshell paint and flooring must be cement or tile to ensure that the area can be cleaned easily and thoroughly. Mosquito nets were also required as part of the health and safety guidelines.
Earlier this year, a meeting was held to discuss the complicated laws about medronho production. Representatives from several câmaras attended, along with members of the Regional Agriculture Directive and In Loco, a regional association who had been asked by medronho producers to represent them.
The outcome of the meeting was positive and Joaquim Mealha, from In Loco, told The Resident: “The law is very complex and it is new territory for the câmaras. The meeting clarified the issues.”
He added that Silves, Tavira, Monchique, São Brás, Loulé, Lagos and Aljezur câmaras were represented and were all keen to support the industry.
An important aspect of licensing producers meant that there could be regulation of the industry to ensure the best product is manufactured for the consumer. Food and safety officers from ASAE have since been appointed as inspectors and regulators of the industry.
Joaquim Mealha added: Medronho can help construct a powerful image for the Algarve. The way forward may be complicated but eventually we will work out the problems.”
There continue to be delays in the licensing process but distillers are confident that the câmaras are on their side. However, one side effect of the legalisation of medronho is that the cost per 70cl bottle has risen since the alcohol is now taxed. The average bottle is priced at around 25 euros, around 4.5 euros of which is tax.
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