February 12, 2020 / 10:04 AM / 5 days ago

French wine and spirits exports hit record in 2019 despite U.S. tariffs

PARIS, Feb 12 (Reuters) - French wine and spirits exports hit a new record last year as exporters booked sales in anticipation of tariffs imposed by the United States and as a result of uncertainty over Brexit, industry group FEVS said on Wednesday.

Sales abroad of wines and spirits — France’s second-biggest export after the aerospace sector — rose 5.9% in value to a new record of 14 billion euros ($15.3 billion), said the ‘FEVS’ Federation of French Wines and Spirit Exporters.

Shipments to the United States, by far the largest overseas market for French wines and spirits and one which represents nearly a quarter of all such exports, rose 16% to 3.7 billion euros in 2019, with volumes rising 5.5%.

The United States imposed 25% duties last year on an array of European foodstuffs including French wine and European cheeses, as part of Washington’s response to illegal EU aircraft subsidies.

Uncertainty last year about the date and conditions of Britain’s exit from the European Union also resulted in people buying up stock ahead of time. This led to a 4.4% rise in sales in 2019 to 1.4 billion euros, said FEVS. Britain is the French wine and spirits industry’s second-biggest export market.

“This positive result in 2019 should not mislead us: trade and international political tensions have weighed heavily on exports of French wines and spirits companies and herald a difficult 2020 year,” FEVS President Antoine Leccia said in a statement, pointing to the U.S. market as the most worrying. ($1 = 0.9157 euros) (Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)

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