French wine exports continue to shrink

25th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 22 (AFP) - French wine exports are continuing to shrink this year, confirming a six-year trend that has brought gloom to the sector, experts and industry bodies say.

PARIS, Oct 22 (AFP) - French wine exports are continuing to shrink this year, confirming a six-year trend that has brought gloom to the sector, experts and industry bodies say.

The amount of wine sent out of France fell 5.6 percent in terms of volume over the first eight months of this year compared with the same period last year, not including Champagne and other sparkling varieties, according to the Federation of Wine and Spirits Exporters (FEVS).

In terms of value, the drop represents a 9.6 percent decline.

Between January and the end of August, EUR 4.5 billion worth of wine and spirits were sold abroad, 2.8 percent less than for the first eight months in 2003.

That gap is unlikely to be made up by the end of this year, specialists said. Bordeaux wines have been especially hard-hit, with 10.4 percent less being exported this year, meaning revenues have been trimmed by more than a quarter.

The value gap was in large part explained by the sales last year of the exceptional quality vintages harvested in 2000 that hiked up the average price of top-shelf bottles of Bordeaux.

Burgundies have resisted better this year. Although their volumes are down 3.6 percent, the value of what has been exported is up 11.1 percent.

Declining taste for French wines, especially in the huge US market, and increased competition from so-called "New World" wine-growers - in Australia, South Africa, South America and the United States - lie behind the continued slump.

French vintners will probably see their woes worsen later this year because of the exceptionally large grape harvest expected to flood the market, bringing down prices and slicing margins. The agriculture ministry estimates up to 25 percent more wine than last year will be produced.

While the number of bottles of French wine sold abroad shrank 12 percent from two billion in 1998 to 1.8 billion in 2003, "New World" exports have exploded by 161 percent (from one billion bottles to 1.9 billion over the same period).

Champagne, that omnipresent celebratory beverage grown only in an eponymous region east of Paris, is in a trend-busting category of its own, however, industry wathers said.

Exports of the premium bubbly stuff increased seven percent by volume January-August 2004. That brought in EUR 885 million - up 10 percent over the same period last year.

Cognac and Armagnac exports have also done well, increasing eight and five percent respectively.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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