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France: exports plummet

French wine exports have plummeted in the first eight months of 2004, with Bordeaux particularly badly hit, the latest figures show.

According to the Federation of Wine and Spirits Exporters (FEVS) exports, not including sparkling wines and champagnes, fell 5.6% in volume and 9.6% in value between January and August this year, compared with the same period in 2003.

Bordeaux suffered most, with exports falling 10.4% in volume and 25.4% in value. Burgundy bucked the trend: figures (excluding the Beaujolais) show an increase of 11.% in value – and a drop of 3.6% in volume.

Champagne showed a growth of 10.3% in value and 7% in volume.

The figures are stark compared with New World (USA, Chile, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand) wines.

Between 1998 and 2003, French exports of 12-bottle cases of wine fell by 12%, from 168m to 148m.

In the same period, New World wine producers saw their exports of 12-bottle cases soar by 161%, from 88m to 161m.

FEVS says the figures for Bordeaux have to be seen in the context of the extraordinary success of the 2000 vintage for the classed-growth chateaux.

In 2003, exports of the 2000 vintage showed an increase of 2.3% in value, but this masked a drop 12.6% in volume for exports to the United States.

The crisis in the French wine sector is exacerbated by the excellent 2004 vintage, which at 58.9m is 25% higher than the (admittedly low) 2003 harvest.

Written by Adam Lechmere, and agencies

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