The Corner

Economy & Business

French Wine Makers Don’t Like Competition and Are Resorting to Violence

This week, hot blooded wine makers in the south of France hijacked five tankers full of Spanish wine and poured the equivalent of 90,000 bottles of red and white wine on the ground.

Many wine makers in the region feel that French wine does not receive enough protection on the home market, and are angry about what they see as a suspicious spike in imports from Spain and Italy, where lower social charges and less red tape enable producers to sell their goods more cheaply….

The protest comes after industry figures showed that France is now the biggest buyer of Spanish wine – purchasing 580 million litres in 2014, a 40 per cent rise on 2013. France has also lost its status as the world’s biggest wine producer. Last year Italy produced 4,900 million litres compared with 4,700 million litres in France.

Instead, of asking for the French government to lower its regulations and social charges, which are set at 45 per cent of their income, compared to an average of 30 per cent in other EU countries, the wine makers are demanding that their wine be protected from competition and lower prices. Some claim that these foreign wines may not even be European.

Denis Pigouche, president of Pyrenees-Orientales winemakers said: “These wines have no place in France. What’s more they’re not even necessarily European. I suspect they are from South America and then ‘Hispanicised’ in Barcelona and then Europeanised, or even Frenchified in France.” …

“We will continue until we’ve proved that the illegal traffic of wine is going on. We are going to protect our consumers. You can trace our wine from the vineyards to the bottle and those same rules should apply to all.”

Never mind that French consumers seem to like it and are voting with their Euros and buying these “South America and then ‘Hispanicised’” wines, and I assume drinking them. It could also be that during hard economic times (and God knows France isn’t doing well), most people aren’t really purist about where the wine they drink come from if it means paying higher prices. But this takes the cake:

He said the tanker hijack was “just the beginning” unless their demands were met …

Wine makers in southwestern France are notoriously hot-blooded and even have a shadowy “armed wing” called le Crav – the Comité Régional d’Action Viticole — that has conducted various commando operations over the years, even laying explosives at “enemy” wine distributors it feels are not supporting local produce.

For real? I wish I could say “unbelievable” but unfortunately this is not the first time that French people have acted in a despicable manner as a response to competition from other countries. You may remember French farmers blocking tomatoes from Spain at the border in the ’90s or implementing blockades against foreign producers last year, and there were many incidents in between and since then. Look at the images over at the link and you will see the level of violence French farmers are willing to engage in just because they don’t like competition and the low prices for consumers it creates.

The worse part is that the president of France, Francois Hollande, has no problem with this. He is supportive of the violence. Last year, he commented on the blockades by saying that “They should know that, protests or no protests, we are by their side.” It is also obvious that no matter what low-price competition brings to French consumers, Hollande, whose popularity rate is down to 17 percent, is siding with producers. As if low prices wouldn’t go a long way to help families in a country where growth has been anemic — when it is not negative — unemployment is above 10 percent and the debt reached 95.7 percent of GDP in 2015 and is still growing. Oh well.

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