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French government to help wine exports

The French government is promising export guarantees to help France's wine producers struggling to keep up sales abroad amid the economic downturn, the agriculture minister said Tuesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The French government is promising export guarantees to help France's wine producers struggling to keep up sales abroad amid the economic downturn, the agriculture minister said Tuesday.

Vintners in the Bordeaux region appealed to visiting Prime Minister Francois Fillon for seven steps to help out their sector, including a cut in the value-added tax on wine in restaurants.

That bid seemed to fall flat. "This is not a subject that we can make decisions on quickly," Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire said. It's "not a priority."

But the prime minister committed to "putting in place measures of export credit guarantees" that would be hammered out with the finance minister by the end of this month, Le Maire said. He gave no other details.

Fillon said there would be no direct subsidies to the wine industry.

French wine exports plunged 25 percent in the first half of this year to euro3.28 billion as consumers worldwide scaled back on nonessentials amid the global financial crisis, according to the Federation of French Exporters of Wines and Spirits. The biggest drop fell in luxury drinks such as Champagne and Cognac, while table wine exports barely dropped.