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8/12/2009

Talks take place to streamline French trade bodies

(First appeared in La Journée Vinicole, edition 204, 3 December)

French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire has met with representatives of the wine industry to discuss implementation of a rescue plan first outlined last July and recently reiterated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Confirming the industry would be entitled to benefit from measures announced by Nicolas Sarkozy for farmers, Le Maire also told wine producers his aim was to rationalise the number of industry bodies.

The minister claimed that streamlining the industry was essential if France was to be better armed to stave off competition abroad.

A working party has been set up and given the task of submitting proposals for reducing the number of industry bodies.

The proposals are expected to be put forward over the next few weeks.

Attempts to streamline the bodies in recent years have often produced the opposite effect and increased their number rather than reduce it.

France currently has 26 trade boards, a number which has often been blamed for the country’s failure to speak with a single voice.

Le Maire wants to see a single trade board in each of the country’s winegrowing regions as well as a national trade fund that would be used to finance co-ordinated promotion and research initiatives.

A meeting has also been convened with the country’s leading shipping representatives to assess the market for wines without geographical indications.

Following criticism over failure to fully deplete EU funding provided by the COM for wine, the Agriculture minister has promised to set up another working party to examine ways of simplifying and speeding up administrative procedures to ensure that future funding is fully used.

Unlike neighbouring countries such as Italy, France had decided to introduce a new range of measures covered by the funding.

But the relevant administrations were unable to produce new regulations and provide information quickly enough for the industry to fully benefit from them.

Responding to concerns by the French wine industry over the planned abolition of planting rights at EU level in 2014, the ministry of Agriculture is setting up a parliamentary enquiry to ascertain the potential consequences of the abolition and consider the most suitable tools for regulating the industry.

In the meantime, however, French wine growers are taking to the streets to air their discontent over the present state of the industry.

A demonstration last month in several French cities was followed by one in the South of France last week.

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