French wine industry plunging into state of crisis

16th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

MARSEILLE, France, Feb 15, 2006 (AFP) - Thousands of French winegrowers took to the streets in towns across southern France on Wednesday to raise the alarm over the crisis gripping their sector and demand more help from the state.

MARSEILLE, France, Feb 15, 2006 (AFP) - Thousands of French winegrowers took to the streets in towns across southern France on Wednesday to raise the alarm over the crisis gripping their sector and demand more help from the state.

In Nimes, around 3,000 people marched behind a banner reading, in the local Occitan language: "Faren tot peta, gardaren li vigno" — "We will blow everything up but keep the vineyards".

Trailing the procession were a group of farmers and hunters, with donkeys, goats and sheep in tow.

According to the head of the local winegrowers' association, nine out of 10 vineyards in the area around Nimes are struggling to make ends meet.

Large protests were also held in Avignon and the Mediterranean towns of Beziers and Narbonne, where protestors marched to demand a state moratorium on tax and social security payments to compensate for their plummeting revenues.

In Narbonne, 5,000 people — winegrowers, but also farm union leaders, lawmakers and local clergymen — marched under banners reading: "Break with the EU, to defend wine and winegrowers!"

"We want an answer from the government by tomorrow morning," said the head of the area's winegrowers' union, Philippe Vergnes, accusing authorities of treating winegrowers with "contempt".

More than 100 winegrowers from the southwestern Bordeaux region, faced with their worst crisis in 30 years, presented the regional governor's office with a list of their demands earlier Wednesday.

France's wine industry faces serious problems caused by overproduction, falling demand at home and intense competition in export markets from 'New World' producers such as Australia, Chile and California.

Many protestors also vented their anger at large retail chains — accused of driving down prices — and public health campaigns which they say have turned French consumers off wine.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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