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French spirits exports rise 30% in 2021

Exports of French spirits grew by double digits to €4.9 billion (US$5.5bn) last year, led by Cognac and liqueurs, according to new figures.

Cognac feature
Cognac exports rose by 31.8% in value last year

According to the Fédération des Exportateurs de Vins & Spiritueux de France (FEVS), French spirits exports rose by 30.1% in value and increased 12.4% in volume to 54.5 million cases.

The figures marked a ‘strong rebound’ for both French wine and spirits, which together reached €15.5bn (US$17.6bn) in 2021 – an increase of 28.3% in value.

FEVS said the trade balance totalled €14.2bn (US$16.1bn) – an increase of 29% – confirming the wines and spirits industry as the second largest trade surplus, behind aeronautics.

In 2020, exports of French spirits fell by 19.4% due to the pandemic. Combined wine and spirits exports declined by 13.9% to €12.1bn (US$14.7bn) in 2020.

“This positive result in 2021 is remarkable,” said FEVS chairman César Giron. “Despite remaining health, logistical and geopolitical constraints, French wines and spirits companies have shown both their willingness and their ability to bounce back in the different parts of the world.”

Cognac exports rose by 31.8% in value and 16.4% in volume last year. Vodka reported a 21% increase in value and a 5.4% rise in volume. Meanwhile, liqueurs climbed by 42% in value and 37.5% in volume, and Calvados grew by 20.9% in value.

The only spirit category to decline was Armagnac, which recorded a 1.3% value drop and a 40.3% decline in volume. In 2020, it was the only spirit subcategory to post growth.

Worldwide sales of French wine reached €10.5bn, an increase of 27.5%, and rose by 10% to 145m cases.

Market performance

In the US, exports of wine and spirits climbed by 34% to €4.1bn (US$4.6bn), with volume up by 20%.

The US and EU agreed to suspend the 25% tariff on products from both nations for a five-year period in March 2021. The US’ 25% tariff affected EU products, including liqueurs and cordials from Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain, and certain Cognacs and other grape brandies from France and Germany.

FEVS said the removal of the tariff helped the recovery of wine shipments in the US (up 33.5%), while spirits exports recorded a 25% rise in the States.

Giron added: “Our companies have grounds for pride: they have shown their ability to succeed, after 18 very difficult months, facing American duties linked to the dispute on aeronautics and the global pandemic.

“But this remarkable recovery should not make us forget that, despite the suspension of duties, this dispute is not solved. We hope the EU and the US will now settle this 15-years-long dispute quickly and definitively.”

The trade body also noted that Brexit had no impact on French wine and spirits exports, which rose by 20% in the UK last year. Exports of French wine and spirits to the EU also climbed by 23% to €3.8bn (US$4.3bn).

Asia also recorded double-digit growth for wine and spirits exports due to the reopening of the on-trade, FEVS said. French wine and spirits reached €3.7bn in Asia, with spirits up by 17% in volume and 47% in value.

Wine also recorded double-digit volume and value gains in the region, up 15% and 24% respectively.

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