France forecasts historic fall in wine production | News | DW | 06.08.2021

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France forecasts historic fall in wine production

The world's second-largest wine-producing country is expecting "historically weak" output this year after spring frosts and summer downpours hit vineyards.

Bottles of Champagne on a shelf

France is the world's second-largest wine producer after Italy

The French Agriculture Ministry said on Friday that the country's wine production this year could fall to a historic low, with as much as a 30% drop.

"Wine production in 2021 is forecast to be historically weak, below levels in 1991 and 2017 that were also affected by severe frost in spring," the ministry said in a report.

"Yields are expected to be close to those of 1977, a year when the harvest was cut by damaging frost and summer rainfall."

Watch video 01:35

Champagne harvest threatened by rain and mildew

An 'agricultural catastrophe'

Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie described the frost as "probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century."

In April, several nights of frost caused the most damage in decades to crops and vines across France.  Heavy summer rains also prompted mildew growth.

According to the ministry, the overall production of French wine is projected to come between 32.6 and 35.6 million hectolitres (3.26-3.56 billion liters).

Grapes are about 10 days to two weeks behind last year's growth pace, giving hope to some producers that there might still be time to recover slightly.

A vine of grapes

Early harvesting is only starting in the far south of France compared with late July in 2020

Experts believe climate change has sharply increased the odds of such events happening again.

A study by the World Weather Attribution, an international organization that analyzes extreme weather events, reported that warmer climates had raised the probability of an extreme frost coinciding with a growing period by 60%.

France isn't alone in its grim wine forecast.

In Italy, the world's top producer of wine, the farmers association Coldiretti is also projecting a 5-10% drop in this year's output. 

High temperatures led the harvest to start a week early in the south, while heavy rain delayed grape growth in the north, according to Coldiretti.

What about prices?

Prices of champagne, at least, are not expected to surge, thanks to its producers' longstanding practice of adjusting supply with stocks from previous seasons.

However, the impact on the wider wine market could also depend on further coronavirus restrictions.

"Wine producers are facing major difficulties this year," said Jerome Despey, a producer and head of the wine committee at farming agency FranceAgriMer. 

"The lost production will never be made up for by market prices."

fb/rs (AFP, Reuters)

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