Figures released yesterday by the French Federation of Wine & Spirits Exporters (FEVS) reveal that French exports of wines and spirits rose by 1.4 percent by value during the first half of the year. A closer look at the figures, however, shows that growth was fuelled almost entirely by spirits which rose by 4 percent compared with just 0.3 percent for wines. The picture was less rosy though for volume exports, which fell by 1.3 percent for both wines and spirits. For FEVS chairman Louis-Fabrice Latour, the results should be put into perspective: “these figures confirm that the wine and spirits industry is one of the most dynamic sectors of French foreign trade. The slight increase in turnover marks the consolidation of our export performance whilst French exports across-the-board have shrunk by 2 percent since the beginning of the year.”
In the same way that spirits have fuelled growth for the industry, sparkling wines underpinned value growth for the wine category with an increase of 1.8 percent compared with -0.2 percent for still wines. The decline in volume for still wines reached -1.8 percent, leading to an overall drop of 1.7 percent to 70.5 million cases for the category as a whole. However, some wine regions – Alsace, Languedoc-Roussillon and Côtes du Rhône – bucked the trend by posting good export performance. In some cases, declining volumes reflect a fall in availabilities: “We couldn’t sell what we didn’t have in our cellars,” pointed out Louis-Fabrice Latour. “All we need to hope for now is that the small 2012 crop, which sparked an increase in prices, does not penalise our long-term relationship with our clients, especially given the overall economic climate which is still depressed”.
French exports have undeniably suffered from a decline in Chinese imports this year, which was only partly offset by a rise in exports to Singapore, now France’s third-largest export market by value after the United States and the United Kingdom. Changes in the Chinese government at the start of the year and, more significantly, the bilateral solar panel trade dispute between the EU and China, have negatively affected exports to the Chinese market this year. This caused Asia as a whole to drop by 2 percent whilst the European Union showed no change at 2 billion euros (+0.5 percent) and North America continued to rise, led by the United States (+5 percent to 910 million euros).
According to the FEVS, latest figures for July confirm the underlying growth in value exports which rose by 1.3 percent over the first seven months of the year to 6.1 billion euros.