France adds another €80m to rescue its winegrowers

People harvest Muscat small grains grapes during early harvests at the Champ des Soeurs vinyard in Fitou, France, July 28, 2020. — AFP pic
People harvest Muscat small grains grapes during early harvests at the Champ des Soeurs vinyard in Fitou, France, July 28, 2020. — AFP pic

SANCERRE (France), Aug 5 — France today added €80 million (RM399 million) to a rescue package for its wine-growing sector, battered by US tariffs and now also the coronavirus pandemic.

This means total aid of €250 million for the sector, which Prime Minister Jean Castex said was “paying a heavy price” because of the economic downturn.

He was on a visit to the central Cher winemaking region, which includes Sancerre and Reuilly, accompanied by Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie.

French wine growers estimate they have lost some €1.5 billion due to the closure of bars, restaurants, parties and a months-long halt to tourism due to the coronavirus outbreak, and estimate that they need aid of at least €350 million to survive.

The sector was already hard hit when Washington slapped a 25 per cent tariff on a number of EU goods including wine, cheese and olives, in a trade dispute over subsidies to Airbus.

Another financial blow was Britain withdrawing from the tariff-free European Union. France exports about 30-40 per cent of its wine.

Today’s announcement was “a relief” for winegrowers, said Jerome Despey of the FNSEA union.

Part of the money promised will be obtained from a European economic rescue fund, and some of it will be used to subsidise the transformation of unsold wine into alcohol to be used for bioethanol, perfume, or sanitising hand gel.

Some 2.6 million hectolitres of wine can be transformed in this manner, said Denormandie. — AFP

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