Crisis-hit French winegrowers protest ad ban

25th February 2004, Comments 0 comments

CHALON-SUR-SAONE, France, Feb 25 (AFP) - Dismayed by a dramatic fall in domestic wine consumption, more than 2,000 French vineyard owners marched through the Burgundy town of Chalon-sur-Saone on Wednesday to demand the lifting of restrictions on their right to advertise.

CHALON-SUR-SAONE, France, Feb 25 (AFP) - Dismayed by a dramatic fall in domestic wine consumption, more than 2,000 French vineyard owners marched through the Burgundy town of Chalon-sur-Saone on Wednesday to demand the lifting of restrictions on their right to advertise.

Delegations from famous wine regions including Bordeaux, the Rhone and Loire valleys and Provence joined forces with Burgundy producers who want urgent government help to rescue the industry from what they say is imminent economic disaster.

Leading the procession was a cart bearing a scaffold with a bottle inside the noose. "Whisky, Coke, McDonalds: No, No, No! Burgundy, Epoisse (cheese), Snails: Yes, Yes, Yes!" the protesters chanted. They carried signs reading:

"We are not drug-dealers. We are not killers."

Already anxious over the long-term change in French drinking habits, which has seen wine consumption fall from 126 litres per person per year in the 1960s to 56 litres in 2000, the business feels it is now being targeted unfairly in a government-backed campaign against alcoholism and drink-driving.

Last month a French court caused uproar among winegrowers when it ordered the Interprofessional Office of Burgundy Wines to halt a poster campaign, on the grounds that it flouted the 1991 so-called Evin law which controls advertising for alcohol and tobacco.

The case was brought by the state-backed National Association for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Addiction, which has also launched proceedings to stop a campaign by Bordeaux wine producers bearing the slogan "Drink less, drink better".

In both cases anti-alcohol campaigners say the advertisements were in clear breach of the law, which allows only the barest information to be conveyed.

The Burgundy campaign featured an attractive woman sipping a glass of red with a text extolling its benefits.

But wine professionals say that without the right to push their product, their share of the drinks market will be squeezed further.

"We have been gagged. If we cannot communicate, we are dead," said Xavier Carreau, president of the lobby group Wines and Society.

Carreau was part of a delegation which met Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on Wednesday to press for an exemption for wine from the Evin law.Wines and Society took out full pages advertisements in the French press with the message: "Is prohibition the future for French wine?"

The protest came against a background of mounting concern for the future of the wine industry, already hard-pressed by the success of new producer countries like Australia and Chile, as well by the strength of the euro and doubts over the quality of many so-called "appellation" labels.

Carreau said his main aim was to stabilise the domestic market, which has been damaged not just by changing tastes but also by the dramatic success of the government's crackdown on drink-driving. While road accidents have fallen by 30 percent in two years, wine consumption in restaurants is down 20 percent.

"We are under a sort of psychological pressure, with the feeling that we have become like cocaine dealers. I support a hard line against alcoholism but the target should not be wine itself - but people's attitudes," said Bernard Devic, head of the Languedoc Winegrowers' Interprofessional Committee.

Figures released on Wednesday showed a small rise in overall exports of French wines and spirits. But the success of highly-priced vintages and champagnes masked the poor performance of mass-market "appellation" reds and whites.

Sales to the United States were badly hit by the falling dollar and a US consumer campaign to boycott French products because of France's opposition to the Iraq war. According to the French Federation of Exporters of Wines and Spirits, France's share of the US market fell from 23 to 15 percent in 2003.

Excluding high-priced vintage wines, exports to the US were down 21 percent in volume and 19 percent in value.

© AFP

                                                              Subject: France news

 

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