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French spirits exports plunge 19.4% in 2020

Exports of French spirits fell by 19.4% last year due to the pandemic, with Cognac and vodka declining by double digits, new figures have revealed.

Cognac exports dropped by 21.4% in value and 11.6% in volume last year

According to the Fédération des Exportateurs de Vins & Spiritueux de France (FEVS), French spirits exports fell to €3.8bn (US$4.6bn) and declined 8.4% in volume to 48.5 million cases.

Combined French wine and spirits exports declined by 13.9% to €12.1 billion (US$14.7bn), due to the US tariffs on EU goods and the coronavirus pandemic.

The US introduced a 25% tariff on single malt Scotch, single malt Irish whiskey and liqueurs, as well as French wine, from the EU in October 2019.

Last month, the US imposed a 25% tariff on additional European goods, including Cognac and brandy from France and Germany.

“One year ago, we announced that 2020 would be a difficult year,” said César Giron, chairman of FEVS. “Our expectations were exceeded. In 2020, our companies had to deal with an extremely unfavourable environment.

“This can be explained by the trade conflict with the US, that remains unsolved as of today, and the outbreak of the Covid‐19 pandemic whose effects propagated all over the world.”

Cognac exports dropped by 21.4% in value and 11.6% in volume. Vodka reported a 23.1% decline in value and a 12.6% fall in volume. Meanwhile, liqueurs decreased by 9.1% in value and Calvados dropped by 4.4% in value. Other wine-based spirits fell by 25.8% in value.

Armagnac shows strong resilience

Armagnac, however, bucked the trend and rose by 39.6% in value and 93.2% in volume.

In the US, wine and spirits exports fell by 18% to €3.1bn (US$3.8bn) and dropped 5.5% in volume.

Wine exports decreased 11.3% to €8.2bn (US$10bn) and volume dropped 5.1% to 132m cases.

FEVS said the pandemic ‘moderately’ impacted wine and spirits sales in the UK, with sparkling wines taking the biggest hit. Exports of wine and spirits to the market fell 6.5% to €1.3bn (US$1.6bn), while exports to China dropped 15.2% to €809m (US$984m).

Giron added: “In this extremely difficult environment, the French wine and spirits’ exporters found ways to preserve their positions and pave the way to the future and to the economic recovery that we all expect for 2021.

“In some countries, we could already see some small improvements, especially during the last trimester of 2020. However, we still need to get in control of the sanitary situation to ensure a global recovery.”

Giron also called on the European Union to resolve the tariff situation with the US.

The Bureau National Interprofessionnel de l’Armagnac said the introduction of a 25% tariff on Armagnac in the US will ‘destroy’ the industry.

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