Vandals claiming allegiance to the French militant winemaker group Comite d'Action Viticole (CAV) have attacked social security offices in Languedoc Roussillon, as tension rises over the level of aid available to hail-struck producers.

Graffiti outside on the MSA building walls. Image credit: France 3 / Frederic Guibal

The attack on the Narbonne offices of the MSA, the key social security provider for French farmers, has been linked to a perceived lack of aid for winemakers in the local Aude region who saw vineyards damaged by violent hailstorms in the summer.

Next to smashed windows, the initials CAV were daubed in red paint on the walls, which is the classic calling card of Languedoc’s militant winemaker group, Comite d’Action Viticole – sometimes also known as Comite Regionale d’Action Viticole.

Using the cover of darkness, vandals also spray-painted ‘Le Foll dehors’ on the sides of the building, showing they want French agriculture minister Stephane Le Foll out of office.

No one was reported hurt, but the incident is a strong sign of rising tension in the region. Only a week earlier, a group of French winemakers and young farmers laid seige to the MSA building in nearby Carcassonne.

Bursts of hail in July were estimated to have damaged up to 15,000 hectares of vines in western Languedoc, with some growers losing the vast majority of their crop. Up to 800 growers have been affected.

The storms mean that Languedoc Roussillon is facing a smaller overall harvest in 2014. Analysts at Rabobank said the storms would curtail the amount of bulk wine available from France in the next year.

The French government and the MSA, which is France‘s second biggest overall provider of social security, have said they will make extra funds available to hail-struck winemakers. But, winemakers’ unions have complained that the money has not yet arrived.

Written by Chris Mercer