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French government approves fund to help French vignerons

The French government has announced a €160 million fund to help vignerons deal with oversupply of wine and has approved in principal the uprooting of vines. 

The announcement follows a meeting between agriculture minister Marc Fesneau and representatives of the French wine industry, according to French websites, Vitisphere and Sud-Ouest.

The French government will contribute 40 million which will be matched by European funding (EAGF) to launch the distillation campaign this summer, with a second distillation campaign potentially running from October, up to a maximum of 160 million euros in 2023. 

It follows the measures taken during the Covid pandemic, in which funding was granted for winegrowers to sell their surplus to be distilled into alcohol for bioethanol or to be made into perfume due to the closure of the off-trade.

However, the president of  wine council of FranceAgriMer, Jérôme Despey has called for at least €200 million to deal with the crisis, arguing that around 2 to 2.5 million hl of French wines needs to be distilled, with some industry experts putting the figure as high as 3 million hl.

“€200 million makes it possible to arrive at a financing plan similar to that of the previous crisis distillation of 2020, which mobilised €211 million for 2.6 million hl,” he was reported as saying. “It is then up to the sector to work together to establish the methods of segmentation between categories of wine and the distillation needs by basin, because we will not be able to go for prices higher than those which currently guide the market.”  

The ministry has also approved in principal the structural uprooting for wine-growing regions that are struggling to sell their over-production – most notably in Bordeaux. The next step will be for France to seek help from EAFRD, the European agricultural fund for rural development, giving priority to vines that have been abandoned and risk transmitting the vine disease golden flavescence to healthy vines.

It is also apparently looking at whether to extend the time to repay government loans taken out during Covid, which FraneAgriMer would like to see extended to ten years.

According to French website Midilibre, these two measures will be endowed with a total of €40 million and should open “in the coming days”.

Work must continue so that these levers can be made operational from 2023. The State will be alongside the New Aquitaine region and the Bordeaux interprofession to respond together to the challenges” a press release said.

Last month vignerons in Bordeaux held their second strike on the issue, to highlight the pressures facing winegrowers in the region. Currently growers are not allowed to be compensated for grubbing up vines, allow their land to go fallow or convert to other uses, but over the last year they have called on the EU and French government to fund this, supported by the head of the CIVB Allan Sichel. 

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