Thousands of militant winemakers are expected to descend on southern French towns tomorrow in a bid gain more government support.

Demonstrations are planned in Narbonne, Béziers, Nîmes, Avignon and Bordeaux.

Organisers are expecting a total of around 15,000 people on the streets.

The groups behind the demonstrators include regional winemaking unions, and cooperatives. The independent winemakers’ union of the Hérault region, however, has asked for the demonstrations to be called off, citing bad timing – a major wine fair, Vinisud, starts on Monday (20 February).

‘There is no reason for the southern winemakers to demonstrate on their own when the crisis affects almost all French winemaking regions,’ it said.

The demonstrators are calling on the government for more financial aid to stem the crisis which has seen growers’ incomes plummet by 50% in the last year.

One winemaker told local reporters that the situation had led to several suicides. ‘There have been six in the Aude and even more in the Hérault,’ Serge Lépine, a winemaker in Camplon d’Aude, told local radio.

For its part, the government has reiterated that over €110m had been given to the sector in 2005.

Written by Oliver Styles