French wine and spirits exports hit a record in 2019 as exporters booked sales ahead of US tariffs and Brexit but the business faces a tougher year in 2020, a report by industry group FEVS (Fédération des Exportateurs de Vins & Spiritueux de France) has revealed.
Sales abroad of wines and spirits - France's second-biggest export after the aerospace sector - rose 5.9% in value to a new record of €14 billion ($15.3 billion), the report said.
Shipments to the United States, by far the largest overseas market for French wines and spirits and one which represents nearly a quarter of all such exports, rose 16% to €3.7 billion in 2019, with volumes rising 5.5%.
The United States imposed 25% duties last year on an array of European foodstuffs including French wine and European cheeses, as part of Washington's response to illegal EU aircraft subsidies.
Uncertainty last year about the date and conditions of Britain's exit from the European Union also resulted in people buying up stock ahead of time.
This led to a 4.4% rise in sales in 2019 to €1.4 billion, said FEVS. Britain is the French wine and spirits industry's second-biggest export market.
"This positive result in 2019 should not mislead us: trade and international political tensions have weighed heavily on exports of French wines and spirits companies and herald a difficult 2020 year," FEVS president Antoine Leccia said in a statement, pointing to the US market as the most worrying.
US tariffs, which came into effect on 18 October, led to a 17.5% drop in French still wine exports in bottle in the last quarter of 2019, amounting €40 million in lost sales, FEVS said.
'A Heavy Impact'
"The arbitrary sanctions that have affected our sector since 18 October threatens our development on the world's leading market, which will have a heavy impact on exporting companies and, more broadly, on the 500,000 players in the wine sector," FEVS said.
In contrast, sales to China fell 4.7% last year to €953,000, FEVS said, adding that sales to Hong Kong dropped 9.4%. The trade body cited a slowdown in the economy and political tensions in last year.
Champagne sales, which had been threatened by US tariffs last year in retaliation for France's digital tax, were nearly stable in volume but rose 7.5% in value to €3.1 billion.
Cognac sales, by far the largest spirits exports, jumped 11.4% to €3.5 billion.