Growers protest wine crisis

Feb. 15, 2006 at 7:23 AM
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PARIS, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Angry French winegrowers took to the streets once again Wednesday, demanding greater government support for their floundering sector.

Wine growing unions hoped the afternoon protests would draw several thousand growers in the southern regions of Avignon, Beziers, Narbonne, Bordeaux and Nimes.

Growers, who say their incomes declined 50 percent last year, are demanding a series of measures on the part of the country's center-right government, ranging from easing tax burdens to more loans at better terms.

But Paris argues it has already forked over more than $130 million in aid to the wine sector in 2005 alone.

The protests are the latest in a series of regular demonstrations by desperate wine growers taking place across France in recent years.

France's wine crisis is due to a mix of factors, most notably the rise of cheaper, competitive "new world wines" being cultivated in such places as South Africa, Chile, Australia or Argentina.

As a result, France has seen its share of sales on the world market slowly ebb in recent years.

But part of the reason is also domestic: the French are drinking less, and often better quality wine. And younger drinkers are switching their preferences from a traditional glass of Bordeaux or Beaujolais to beer and hard alcohol.

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