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‘Emergency’ €80m promised to French winegrowers amid farmer protests

France's government has promised an €80m 'emergency fund' for crisis-hit winemakers, as ministers also try to de-escalate widespread farmer protests covering many agricultural sectors.

An €80m (£68m) ’emergency fund’ will be launched imminently to help French winegrowers in financial difficulty, said the country’s agriculture ministry this week.

It said there was a ‘profound crisis’ in several vineyard regions in the south of France.

Agriculture minister Marc Fesneau was due to visit the Hérault department in Languedoc today (2 February) to flesh out the plans.

These also include an extra €150m for ‘restructuring’ – mostly to help more French winemakers who wish to grub up vines, and potentially grow something else. This money is subject to European Commission approval, according to France Info / Agence France Presse.

New wine sector aid was promised as the government seeks to de-escalate widespread farmer protests related to accusations of unfairness and the cost of doing business.

Blockades have taken place in other European countries, too, with tractors clogging up boulevards and dumping manure near the European Union headquarters in Brussels yesterday (1 February).  

Local French media reports suggest some winegrowers have joined the wider farmer protests in different parts of France, including near Bordeaux.

In Languedoc, winemakers held a protest in Narbonne on 26 January, yet this also followed a march in the same city involving several thousand growers back in November.

In October, a group of protesters halted two lorries carrying wine into France from Spain, soaking the road surface with the contents near to Perpignan. Low-cost imports have been a target for winemaker protests in the past. 

Frédéric Rouanet, head of the nearby Aude winemakers’ union, told Decanter at the time that winegrowers faced a desperate financial situation. Wineries’ costs had risen, but prices for their wines had not, he said. 

Agriculture minister Fesneau said this week that French wine faced a multi-pronged structural crisis, linked to falling consumption, a slowdown in exports and the impact of climate change. 

News of the fresh aid comes after a scheme to ‘grub up’ vineyards in Bordeaux opened last year, and the government also spent €200m nation-wide to help turn surplus wine into industrial alcohol.

The European Commission allowed ‘crisis distillation’ across the bloc in 2023, noting falling wine consumption and lower exports for several member states.

European producer nations aren’t the only ones concerned about surplus wine. In January, Silicon Valley Bank warned the US wine industry was ‘presently built to overproduce’.

Meanwhile, winemakers in South Australia’s Riverland region also held protests this week, calling more more sustainable wine grape prices, among other measures, according to ABC News

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