Another 80-mn euros to rescue French winegrowers

France on Wednesday added 80 million euros 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 euros 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 euros 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 euros to survive.

The sector was already hard hit when Washington slapped a 25-percent 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 percent of its wine.

Wednesday’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.