Tariffs imposed by the US could hinder a rebound in French wine and spirits exports, after a 13.9% drop in 2020, if coronavirus restrictions that shut restaurants, bars and airport duty free stores in many countries were to be lifted.
That's according to the Federation of French Wines and Spirit Exporters (FEVS) who reported on 11 February that sales abroad of wines and spirits - France's second-biggest export after the aerospace industry - fell by €2 billion to €12.1 billion ($14.7 billion).
Shipments to the US, the largest overseas market for French wines and spirits and one which represents a quarter of all such exports, slumped by 18% to €3.1 billion in 2020.
FEVS chairman Cesar Giron told Reuters that in 2021, French still wine exports to the US were likely to shed about €1 billion in revenue of a usual total of €1.2 billion.
He also said that additional taxes on spirits such as Cognac and Armagnac, which started in January, could mean a further loss of several hundred million euros."Even if we perform well on other markets, it will be very difficult to compensate such a significant drop on the US market," he told Reuters.
French wine and spirits exports had jumped in 2019 as exporters booked sales ahead of the imposition of US tariffs.
The US government imposed additional tariffs of 25% on an array of European Union products, including French wine, in October 2019 and raised them on another set of products in January as part of a 17-year battle over aircraft subsidies between Washington and the European Union. Giron did not expect US tariffs to be lifted soon.
FEVS said that the global pandemic was the main reason for weaker sales in the rest of the world. It broke out in China on the eve of the Chinese New Year, hitting consumption during the festive period, and causing exports to China to fall 15% last year. Sales to Singapore and Hong Kong fell by 31% and 6% respectively.
In the European Union without Britain, which accounts for about a third of total exports, French wine and spirits sales shed 6.9% while they dropped by 6.5% to the UK.
Rise In Consumption
A rise in consumption at home only partly compensated for the closure of bars, restaurants and airport shops.
Global exports of champagne and cognac, by far the largest wine and spirits exports, both lost more than 20% in sales last year.
FEVS was optimistic that the vaccination campaign against Covid-19 would help a rebound in 2021, with some positive signs in some countries in the last quarter of 2020.