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30/04/2010

France strives to streamline industry structure

(First appeared in La Journée Vinicole, Edition 216, April 29) After suffering from a chronic profusion of industry structures for many years, the French authorities are seeking to streamline the wine industry by reducing the number of regional trade boards. At the end of last year, newly-appointed Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire commissioned Jérôme Despey, head of the wine committee at intervention board FranceAgriMer, to draft a report on how best to achieve this. The report was officially submitted to Bruno Le Maire last week. In it, Jérôme Despey advocates creating a national fund for promotion, research and development as well as ensuring a high level of involvement in the decision-making process for local industry representatives. Although the report is not the final stage in the streamlining procedure, it sets out a series of recommendations and goals based on input by all of France’s wine growing regions. The widely held view is that changes must not be dictated by Paris through legislation but based on feedback from local industry governance. Another belief is that two different tacks should be taken, one for wines without a geographical indication and a different one for wines with a GI. In the former case, the report recommends that the national marketing board should be strengthened so that it can engage in research, development and promotion with a view to improving the image of these entry-level wines in export markets and increasing market share. For GI wines, the aim is to seek, wherever possible, mergers, partnerships or federations in the economic interests of the producer region thereby giving the trade board scheme greater clarity by optimising possible synergies. Since publication of a five-year modernisation blueprint, the overriding ambition of the authorities has been to reduce the number of wine growing regions from an administrative perspective. The Ministry of Agriculture recommends that France should be divided into ten regions and the report comes down in favour of this, despite opposition from Provence at being ‘lumped together’ with the Rhône Valley. Their opposition is quite understandable: Corsica, far the lesser region in terms of volume production, would have its own region whilst Provence and the Rhône Valley, a massive swathe of vineyard area, would also count as just one region and hence have only two representatives at national level, like Corsica. Jérôme Despey has therefore suggested that Provence and Corsica be classed as a single region, like the Rhône Valley. This would avoid having to create an eleventh area. Finally, the report advocates the establishment of a national fund for promotion, research and development. The fund could be financed by the various trade boards and the State and would generate a potential budget of 23 million euros. Collaborative efforts would be devoted to national rather than regional projects. Over the next few weeks, the Agriculture Minister will be meeting industry representatives to sound out their views and attempt to resolve outstanding issues.

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