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French state urged to help winemakers after hailstorm damage

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-08-08

French winemakers in the Bordeaux region are calling on the state to bail them out after a “catastrophic” hailstorm over the weekend destroyed thousands of hectares of vineyards. Many of those affected are small, uninsured producers.

A large part of the Bordeaux wine region was counting the cost Tuesday of devastating hail storms that destroyed a wide swath of vineyards over the weekend, amid calls for the government to step in and save winemakers from bankruptcy.

The storms struck an estimated 20,000 hectares in the Entre-deux-Mers region, which sits between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers to the southeast of Bordeaux.

7,000 hectares were completely destroyed, according to figures released Monday by the local Chamber of Agriculture,

“It was a brutal and intense storm,” Bernard Farges, head of the Bordeaux Wine Professionals Committee, told AFP. “The vines stood no chance.”

The total cost to the mostly small-scale winemakers in the Entre-deux-Mers region is difficult to calculate.

And while most of them do not insure their crops, the damage to the local industry is likely to be huge.

Farges explained that 2013 was already set to be a small year – with an anticipated 4.5 million hectolitres compared to 5.4 in 2012. The weekend’s storm was “a catastrophe”, he said.

Winegrower Loic de Roquefeuil, who produces a Bordeaux Supérieur at Saint-Léon, said his entire 30 hectares had been destroyed. He was not insured.

“There’s nothing left, it’s appalling,” he told AFP. “I’ve lost the equivalent of 200,000 bottles, with a wholesale value of three euros each. That's a huge loss.”

Bordeaux Wine Professionals Committee late on Monday called for “an entire administrative arsenal”, including tax and social security breaks and compensation to be paid by the state.

Philippe Madrelle, head of the regional [ruling] Socialist Party, also asked for help from the state for producers hit by “exceptionally bad weather.”

Last weekend’s storm was not an isolated event. In late July a hailstorm caused "catastrophic" damage to prestigious vineyards in the Burgundy region, with up to 70 percent of crops destroyed on some estates.

The storm is the latest in a string of difficulties to hit Burgundy wine producers, including flooding in the spring and hailstorms last year that destroyed 60 percent of crops on some estates.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-08-06

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