Italy winemakers see sales recovery in 2011-2012

Thu Apr 8, 2010 2:53pm EDT
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By Svetlana Kovalyova

VERONA, Italy (Reuters Life!) - Italian winemakers look beyond 2010 to see a return to pre-crisis sales levels next year or in 2012 after the global economic downturn drained consumer demand last year.

Italy, the world's second-biggest wine producer after France, had output of about 4.5 billion liters (989.9 million Imp gallons) in 2009 and saw export sales drop 6 percent to 3.5 billion euros ($4.66 billion) last year hit by the crisis and growing competition from the "New World" wines, according to industry data.

"2010 is not going to be an easy year. I don't think we'll see a general recovery in consumer demand this year," Andrea Sartori, chairman of Italian wine industry body Unione Italiana Vini (UIV) told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

"We'll have to wait until 2011 to see the sector returning to pre-crisis levels," Sartori said at the wine trade fair Vinitaly in northern Italian wine growing region of Veneto.

In 2009, Italian wine sales to core export markets, the United States and Britain, fell 7 and 10 percent respectively hammered by the crisis and advance of rivals from Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, according to UIV estimates based on data from Italy's statistics agency ISTAT.

Lamberto Vallarino Gancia, chairman of the Federvini trade body, was more cautious in predicting a full recovery in the next two years as consumers have become more attentive to spending during the crisis.

Volumes of Italian wine exports rose 6 percent to 1.95 billion liters in 2009, UIV data showed. But volumes grew mostly because producers slashed prices, and margins, to win back consumers, winemakers said.

Average price of Italian wine dropped 20 percent last year, with ordinary wine prices plunging 25 percent and special denomination quality wines losing 13 percent, Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia said at Vinitaly opening ceremony.   Continued...

<p>A woman fills glasses with sparkling wine at the Vinitaly wine expo in Verona April 8, 2010. REUTERS/Paolo Bona</p>