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CHINA

France urges EU to stop spat with China over wine

France has implored its EU neighbours to deal with a brewing trade impasse with China, which has responded to the EU's curbing of solar panel imports with a probe into European wine exports to China, a key emerging market for French vineyards.

France urges EU to stop spat with China over wine
A waitress inspects a wine glass in Hainan, China. Photo: Ed Jones/AFP

France on Wednesday called on its European Union partners to quickly agree a united response to China's decision to open an anti-dumping probe into wine imports from Europe.

The Chinese move, ordered in retaliation for the EU's imposition of anti-dumping duties on solar panel imports from China, has raised fears of a broader trade war between the world's biggest trading bloc and the Asian superpower.

"The President of the Republic expressed his desire that the European Commission take steps to organize a meeting to establish a united position of the 27 (member states) based on solidarity," French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said after a cabinet meeting.

As the biggest exporter of wine to the fast-growing Chinese market, France has most to lose should China proceed with a move to impose anti-dumping duties on imports from the EU.

Establishing a common EU stance on the issue may prove difficult however.

While France supported the imposition of punitive duties on Chinese solar panels, the move was opposed by Germany, China's biggest trade partner in Europe.

German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler on Wednesday called for dialogue rather than confrontation with China and reiterated that Berlin regarded the decision on solar panels as a "serious mistake."

French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said there was no justification for China's move, insisting that EU producers did not benefit from any export subsidies.

"We have to stay calm," Le Foll added.

"Discussions are underway between Europe and China. We have to be able to find the necessary coherence to retain a simple objective: Europe cannot remain open unless a certain number of social and environmental rules are respected and without rules to avoid dumping.

"I understand the concern (of winemakers) because China is a major country where we have an extremely big and important presence."

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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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