US exports top US$1bn in 2018

Exports of all US wines reached US$1.47 billion in 2018 despite a stronger dollar and various global challenges.

Total exports in 2018 were down 4.8% in value and 1.2% in volume (to 375 million litres/41.7m cases) and this was due to the dollar exchange rate as well as the retaliatory tariffs China has in place and the implementation of free trade agreements between countries in Asia and various New World rivals such as Chile and Australia.

California continues to dominate US exports – to the tune of 90% – and Robert Koch, CEO of the California Wine Institute, said that the state’s wines had “performed well under very challenging circumstances”.

In part this was due to, “top markets continuing to embrace our reputation for premium quality, leadership in sustainable winegrowing and diverse offerings,” and also various marketing programmes that, “continued to generate new fans among media, trade and consumers”.

Exports from California have risen 60% in the past decade and 170 wineries now export to 142 countries.

The top markets by value are: Europe (US$469m), Canada (US$449m), Hong Kong (US$130m), Japan (US$93m), China (US$59m) and Mexico (US$27m).

Charles Jefferson, Wine Institute vice-president of Federal and International Public Policy, said: “We have made critical progress on trade agreements with the UK, Mexico and Canada, and we continue to advocate for wine tariff elimination in key markets including China and Japan.

“Wine Institute will continue fighting for a level playing field and the removal of trade barriers in markets around the world.”

The UK showed strong volume growth in 2018 – up 15% – although value declined a slight 1.4%.

Damien Jackman, Wine Institute trade director, UK and Ireland, commented: “This is an impressive result considering that the British pound (GBP) closed the year at $1.26 against the US dollar versus its pre-Brexit buying power of $1.55 or higher.

“These currency headwinds impacted the value/volume mix of many importers.  At the same time, volume growth has resulted from growing trade interest and sales of Californian wines under £20.

“This has been a key focus of our California Wine Institute programs in the UK and was the central theme of our recent ‘Essential California Tasting’ in London which was praised by the trade for its focus.”

In Asia meanwhile there was a “softening” after several years of positive growth thanks to the current trade spat between Washington and Beijing.

Christopher Beros, Wine Institute trade director for China and Pacific Rim, explained: “In 2018, US wine exports to Asia experienced a softening compared to the healthy growth rates of the prior two years. A nearly 25% decline in exports to China by value was the largest contributor to the softness, primarily the result of trade issues between the US and China and the increased tariffs on US wines imported into Mainland China.

“The long-term prospects for California wine sales in China, however, remain very strong. Exports to Hong Kong are a bright spot, growing 10% to $130 million in 2018. Clearly some of these wines are being re-exported to other countries including Mainland China. Exports to Vietnam increased by 51% from a small base. Vietnam is a promising market for California wines with its huge population, young average age, and aspirational consumer psychographics.”

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