Stricken French vintners plan more protests

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Wine makers, Winemaking, Languedoc-roussillon, Languedoc wine, France

French wine makers, set for another round of protests, today met
with the country's agriculture minister in their campaign to get
more state aid to protect their industry from falling consumption,
foreign competition and overproduction, reports Chris
Mercer.

Wine makers from France's Languedoc-Roussillon region held a meeting this afternoon with minister of agriculture Dominique Bussereau to try to begin solving a widespread crisis in the country's industry.

Vintners have been protesting for several weeks at what they claim is a lack of government support for the industry where production is exceeding market demand by around 30 per cent.

Another bout of protests are set to take place across the Languedoc-Roussillon region this week.

The largest is to be held in Narbonne on Wednesday when organisers expect up to 7,000 vintners to hit the streets, depending on how discussions go today in Paris.

Protests have been particularly fierce in this southern region where last month riot police were forced to use tear gas to control a rally in Montpellier.

www.BeverageDaily.Com​ will report live from the Narbonne rally on Wednesday afternoon.

Overproduction has again reared its ugly head in France after quantities rose 23 per cent on 2003 to 59 million hectolitres, more than reversing successes in cutting wine production between the 2000 and 2003 vintages.

This, in turn, has caused a distillation crisis with French vintners appealing to Brussels for an EU allowance, reportedly around €200 million, to distil 10 million surplus hectolitres of wine into both potable and industrial alcohol.

There are signs too that France is losing serious ground on international markets after Australia, which only produces 13 million hectolitres annually, recently replaced its 'Old World' rival as the UK's number one wine supplier.

The French government, aware of the problem, pledged a €70 million aid package for the wine industry at the end of January.

Yet, some wine makers criticised the move when they discovered that only €3.5 million would go towards promoting wines, and €40 million would go towards keeping indebted producers afloat; effectively maintaining a saturated market.

Many vintners also argue the government has made matters worse by launching a public health campaign warning people to cut down on their alcohol intake.

However, even if wine makers are successful in getting more government backing for production and marketing, it seems increasingly likely that the country's industry will facing a tough streamlining process over the next few years.

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