The French wine and spirit industry was on the receiving end of further bad news this week when the industry export body said that wine and spirits exports had declined 3.1% in 2004.

The French Federation of Exporters of Wines and Spirits said that wine total exports reached €7.57 billion (US$9.83 billion), according to a report today by AFP.

Particularly badly hit were exports of wine from Bordeaux, which fell 22.3%. Cotes du Rhone sales were also down by 14.5%.

"Our sector, as we had anticipated, sharply deteriorated in 2004," AFP quoted FEVS president Patrick Ricard, saying.

Total French still wine exports fell 9.2%. However, Champagne sales were still strong, up 4.8%. In the spirits sector, export sales were up 1.6% to 2.063 billion euros.

Ricard said that exports had suffered from a difficult economic context, including the weak dollar, and aggressive marketing by international competitors.