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Province announces $15M in funding for craft alcohol producers

The provincial government announced $15 million in funding on Friday that it says will help grow small alcohol producers.

Cash will support small producers and distilleries to grow and scale up operations

The province has announced new funding for craft alcohol producers. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The provincial government announced $15 million in funding on Friday that it says will help grow small alcohol producers.

The funding, which will roll out over the next year, supports wineries, tourism activities, marketing and research development, the province said in a news release.

"Our government's priority is to make Ontario more competitive, and this includes strengthening the craft producers' sector," said Ernie Hardeman, the minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, in a statement.

The announcement included changes that the province says will make product sales easier in the sector. 

Wineries, breweries and other producers will be able to extend their allowed service hours to 9 a.m. to 12 a.m., seven days a week.

Authorized wineries will also be able to sell their products at farmer's markets and can return unsold products to their onsite retail store within a 72-hour period, according to the news release.

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.

This is the latest of several moves by the provincial government concerning alcohol sales.

The province is in the process of expanding beer sales to convenience stores. This change requires breaking the former Liberal government's 10-year deal with the Beer Store.

Any breach of that contract's key terms comes with penalties. Beer industry sources have told CBC News that those penalties would likely run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Ontario also introduced the "buck-a-beer challenge" in August 2018 and extended alcohol sales hours in May.

That was one of Doug Ford's campaign promises during the provincial election last year.

However, breweries actually offering beer at that price have since dwindled.

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