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ALCOHOL

Huge haul of contraband booze seized in Calais

Customs officers in Calais have seized 14,000 litres of contraband alcohol, thought to be worth nearly €300,000, headed for the UK.

Officers found nearly 30 crates of illegal whisky and vodka on the back of a lorry boarding a ferry to England last Saturday.

When questioned, the driver handed over papers with a licence to carry 26 palettes of wine from a French to an English company.

The driver appeared in court in Calais the day after the find was made. He was given an eight month suspended sentence for smuggling taxable, illegal merchandise.

He was also fined €279,171 – the market value of the alcohol seized.

Nearly 80,000 litres of contraband alcohol and 93,000 litres of beer have been seized by customs officers in Calais since the beginning of the year.

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FARMING

Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts

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