FRANCE: Days "numbered" to arrest French wine decline

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France's trade minister, François Loos, has said that the days are probably numbered to arrest the decline of French wine exports.

"At the current rate, if nothing is done in substance, France risks seeing its image and economic performance in the sector seriously eroded," Loos warned.

France is the world's leading wine producer and the second biggest exporter. However, last year exports fell by 2.8% and this followed a 3.4% decline in France's balance of trade from wine in 2000.

In contrast, New World wines, from countries such as South Africa, Australia New Zealand, the US, Chile and Argentina are enjoying buoyant export growth with rises totalling 169% since 1994.

"Every available means are being used to end French and European leadership," Loos claimed, adding that French AOC's are being copied and encroached upon abroad.

Regulatory guidelines have been set out before the WTO, covering various areas such as customs duties, sanitary and phyto-sanitary checks and patent rights, which incorporate geographical indications. Discussions are scheduled for completion in September 2003.

"We must really get down to work and ensure that the outcome is a satisfactory one."

However, regulations alone were not enough to arrest the decline in French wine. It also depends on resolute action by producers and their capacity to defend brand names and support the fragility of the French model and marketing policy, Loos added.

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