EU ministers agree to cut wine overproduction

Drinks

European Union agriculture ministers Wednesday approved a long-awaited reform of the wine industry designed to reduce overproduction and limit subsidies.

The final version of the reform, which had been met with strong resistance from the EU’s two largest wine producers, Italy and France, envisages a voluntary, three-year scheme removing 175,000 hectares of vineyards that currently produce unsold wine. The original proposal had called for a far bigger cut in vineyards, but EU officials said the final result was a fair compromise. In a statement, the EU’s executive arm, the Commission, said the changes introduced by the reform would bring „balance to the wine market, phase out wasteful and expensive market intervention measures and allow the (EU) budget to be used for more positive, proactive measures which will boost the competitiveness of European wines.”

Ministers also agreed to continue to allow German and Austrian wine producers to add sugar in order to increase their wines’ alcohol content. Under the reform, subsidies are to be phased out. The resulting savings are to be made available to promote European wine outside the EU and to modernize the bloc’s vineyards and cellars. „I am delighted that we were able to find a compromise and I’d like to thank the ministers for their willingness to solve tricky issues,” said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. „Instead of spending much of our budget getting rid of unwanted surpluses, we can now concentrate on taking on our competitors and winning back market share. We didn’t get everything we wanted, but we have ended up with a well-balanced agreement,” the commissioner said.

The reform is due to enter into force on August 1, 2008. (m&c.com)

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