PARIS (Reuters) – French wine production is likely to rise this year and harvesting could start early after warm weather, the country’s farm ministry forecast, just as Italy and France try to curb premium output to support prices.
In a report containing its first forecast for 2020, the French farm ministry on Friday projected output at 44.7-45.7 million hectolitres, a rise of 6-8% compared with last year and slightly above the country’s average of the past five years.
A hectolitre is the equivalent of 100 litres, or 133 standard wine bottles.
Vines generally benefited from favourable spring weather for flowering, although mildew disease has affected parts of the southwest and hailstorms in the Bordeaux region caused up to 30% production losses in some zones, the ministry said.
A developing drought in France could curb the anticipated increase in production this year, it added.
A very warm spring has left vines much further ahead in their growth than last year, with the Loire Valley region showing an advance of up to one month, it said.
The prospect of an early wine grape harvest has added to headaches for growers reliant on seasonal labour and who have been facing a shortfall of foreign workers and stricter sanitary measures during the novel coronavirus epidemic.
For the Champagne region, the ministry said vines were showing good potential, but noted that producers have yet to agree on an annual volume.
Growers and champagne houses are negotiating a production target, with some producers looking to cut output to shore up prices of the sparkling wine after the coronavirus crisis slashed sales.
(Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Alexander Smith)