The European Union (EU) Council of Ministers has authorised Portugal to halve the excise duty on beer produced in its Atlantic archipelago Madeira, even where breweries' production exceeds the maximium allowed under EU rules for such a reduction.

Under the EU's excise duty directive 92/83/EEC, threatened small breweries can have their excise duties halved, when producing under 200,000 hectolitres per annum. EU ministers have accepted that, although Madeira breweries - notably Empresa de Cervejas da Madeira - could exceed that production, they still suffer stiff competition from mainland Europe.

The ministers ruled earlier this week that Madeira brewers "may benefit from the reduced rate" during the next six years for up to 300,000 hectolitres, if this additional 100,000 hectolitres is consumed only in Madeira. This would offset Madeira brewers' "remote location, fragmented terrain and tight local markets".