French minister uses Vinexpo speech to attack planting rights reform

French minister uses Vinexpo speech to attack planting rights reform

France's agriculture minister has used the opening ceremony of Vinexpo to denounce the European Commission's plan to liberalise grapevine planting rights across the EU.

Europe risks a fresh wine glut if the European Commission is allowed to press ahead with plans to decentralise planting rights, Bruno Le Maire warned at the official opening of the Vinexpo wine trade fair yesterday (19 June).

France has recruited fellow heavyweight wine producers Spain and Italy in order to push its case at European Union (EU) level. As part of a wine reform package agreed by EU member states in 2008, the European Commission will abolish the EU-wide planting rights system by the end of 2015.

"I am against this liberalisation," said Le Maire, speaking at Vinexpo in Bordeaux. "It will not help European and French wine growers to achieve their aims of competing on a world scale with wines of the highest quality."

Since 1976, it has been illegal for producers in EU member states to plant new vines, subject to special approval from national governments. Under the Commission's plan, this will transform into a market-based system, allowing producers to buy and sell rights.

The Commission has argued that this will allow less profitable producers to sell their rights, while more successful wineries will have greater freedom to expand.

However, trade bodies and some governments are concerned about "unrestricted planting", conscious that overproduction was the main reason for introducing the current system in the 1970s.

To view stats on EU vineyard area per country, click here.