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French government floats €160m fund to ease ‘wine crisis’

France’s government has said funds of up to €160m (£142m) could be made available to help the country’s winemakers drain excess stocks, as part of a wider plan to support the sector.

France’s Ministry of Agriculture has announced several measures this week designed to help ease a ‘crisis in the wine sector’. An initial part of the the plan is to offer financial support to winemakers wishing to drain excess stocks via a new distillation scheme – an emergency measure that has been used at certain times in the past. 

The Ministry said €40m of national state funding and another €40m of supplementary funds from the European Union’s European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) would enable a crisis distillation programme to begin this summer.

Ministers will also speak to the European Commission for clearance to match this funding for a second distillation programme to start from October. That means that a total of €160m could be made available for distilling excess wine stocks in 2023, the Ministry of Agriculture said.

This would help to alleviate a short-term crisis, caused by inflation related to the economic impact of the war in Ukraine, which has exacerbated existing structural issues in parts of the French wine sector. However, French wine trade publication Vitisphere said industry leaders had requested at least €200m in distillation funds.

The government is also planning to support the French wine industry in developing a longer-term plan for the future. This includes looking how the sector can adapt to climate change challenges and also to shifting consumption patterns in France and in export markets.

French wine industry bodies CNIV and Vin & Société recently ‘sounded the alarm’ over figures showing a 70% drop in wine consumption in France between 1960 and 2020.

They cited reasons ranging from demographic and lifestyle changes to younger generations tending to opt for beer and spirits, over wine. Joël Boueilh, president of the Vignerons Coopérateurs de France (French wine cooperatives union), was recently quoted in Reussir as saying winemakers must adapt to consumer needs, alongside seeking support to alleviate pressure on the sector.

In December, winemakers in Bordeaux held a large protest on the city’s streets to seek a better social plan to help struggling winemakers. Bordeaux’s wine bureau, the CIVB, estimated that around 10,000ha of the region’s vines should be permanently uprooted.

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