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CHAMPAGNE

French champagne houses expect bumper 2021 sales

French champagne houses are looking forward to bumper sales this year, but it is feared the Covid surge in the lead-up to Christmas and New Year could dampen festive expectations

Moet et Chandon champagne being poured into a glass which stands on a tray, surrounded by other glasses
Champagne houses are hoping to raise a glass to a bumper year. Photo: Francois Nascimbeni / AFP

Champagne sales hope to raise a toast to a record year in 2021 as shops and restaurants replenish stocks after months of virus-related restrictions and as retail demand surges, an industry body said.

The outlook for the key Christmas and New Year festive season, however, is clouded by uncertainty over the recently detected Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Jean-Marie Barillere, co-president of the CIVC champagne industry association and president of the champagne brand group UMP, told AFP that the sector was headed for sales of 315 million bottles this year, representing turnover of €5.5 billion.

If confirmed, that would beat the current annual sales record of €5 billion, reached in 2019 before Covid struck.

The sales surge comes as severe spring frosts followed by summer rains wreaked havoc on vineyards across France, which are forecast to report harvest losses of up to a third on a year.

But champagne must be aged over a year and producers traditionally keep millions of bottles locked away in their cellars to ensure steady supplies from one year to the next.

Strong exports, especially to English-speaking countries, were a big factor for the bumper year, Barillere said.

“The pandemic has created new consumer habits,” he said. “Everything related to entertaining at home is in high demand, including champagne.”

But the prospects for traditional events and restaurant dining over Christmas and New Year’s depends on Covid developments, and whether the Omicron strand prompts new travel restrictions, curfews or lockdowns.

“Two weeks ago I would have told you that the outlook for the festive season was excellent but the new variant has dampened our optimism,” he said.

There was now a danger of a “terrible halt” to plans for end-of-year festivities.

Dozens of countries have reported Omicron cases and the World Health Organisation has said it could take weeks to determine how dangerous the variant really is.

The EU health agency meanwhile has warned that the new strand could cause more than half of Europe’s Covid cases in the next few months.

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POLITICS

Paris Agriculture show returns for 2022 event

The Paris farm show is back after being cancelled last year due to the pandemic. Set to be held one month before the presidential election, the 2022 event will be politically loaded.

French President Emmanuel Macron checks the quality of a cow during the Paris Agriculture show.
French President Emmanuel Macron checks the quality of a cow during the Paris Agriculture show. The event returns in late February after being cancelled last year due to the pandemic. (Photo by Ludovic Marin / POOL / AFP)

The organisers of the Salon de l’agriculture, an annual farm show held in Paris, have announced that the 2022 event will be held from February 26th – March 6th.

The 2021 edition was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic – and the 2020 event was cut short – and there had been fears that this year would suffer the same fate. 

“This edition will not be like the others,” wrote the organisers in a statement, out of “respect for the health guidelines.” 

Mask-wearing rules, added ventilation inside exhibition tents and special measures to facilitate tastings during the pandemic will be implemented. Visitors will need to hold a valid health pass. 

The event falls just over one month before the first round of the presidential election, set for April 10th – and candidates will be sure to milk the opportunity to score political points. 

The event is the annual highlight of the agriculture sector – which employs about 759,000 people in France – and many more rely on the agricultural sector indirectly for employment. The sector was valued at €81.2 billion in 2021.

“This is a highly anticipated event, not just for the farming community, but also for citizens, political leaders and the media,” wrote the event organisers. 

Former President Jacques Chirac pioneered the use of the farm show as a political event, visiting almost every year from 1972- 2011. 

Former President Jacques Chirac inaugurates the 2007 Paris farm show.

Former President Jacques Chirac inaugurates the 2007 Paris farm show. (Photo by PATRICK KOVARIK / POOL / AFP)

In 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron spent 14 hours strolling through the farm show, shaking hands and speaking with producers. This marathon visit set a new record for a sitting president. 

Previously, Francois Hollande is reported to have paid a 10 hour visit, Jacques Chirac 5.5 hours and Nicolas Sarkozy just four hours. 

The Local visited the show in 2020 to find out why it was so important for politicians to attend. 

READ MORE Why petting cows at the farm show is crucial for French politicians

The event, which is held at the Porte de Versailles in the south of Paris, isn’t just for farmers and politicians – it’s hugely popular with the public and thousands of people usually attend. 

The full ticket price is €15, for children between 6-12 it is €8 and children under six can go free. There are also group discounts available. 

Tickets can be bought online here and at the venue itself. 

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