February 11, 2015 / 5:44 PM / 4 years ago

China weighs on French wine and spirits exports

PARIS (Reuters) - A decline in French wines and spirits exports worsened last year as China’s clampdown on extravagant spending capped demand for pricy cognacs and Bordeaux wines, but producers said they banked on a weak euro to help stabilize exports this year.

Oak barrels are stored in a cellar where cognac is aged at the distillery of Courvoisier house in Cognac, southwestern France, February 11, 2015. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Shipments of French wines and spirits abroad fell 2.8 percent to 10.8 billion euros in 2014, hurt by a 17.4 percent fall in sales to China, the sector’s federation FEVS said on Wednesday.

“The year 2014 reflects the anti-ostentatious spending policy that started in 2013 in China, and whose impact was fully felt (in 2014),” FEVS said in a statement.

For 2015, FEVS President Christophe Navarre was cautious.

“We expect a year more or less flat,” he told a news conference, citing a weaker euro.

The sector had already recorded signs of weakness in 2013 when total export revenue fell 0.4 percent, also pressured by a fall in sales of cognac and Bordeaux wines to China.

Total cognac exports, which account for two third of French spirits shipments abroad, fell 7.6 percent in value last year, while Bordeaux wine exports slumped 17.1 percent.

Slower economic growth in China, the world’s second-largest economy, along with a crackdown on corporate gift-giving, has hurt the profits of big cognac makers such as Hennessy, part of LVMH, Remy Cointreau and Pernod Ricard.

They however expect Chinese demand to pick up this year.

Last month Remy Cointreau said cognac shipments to China increased in the third quarter but it cautioned that local demand did not show clear recovery signs ahead of next month’s Chinese New Year.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Andrew Callus

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