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French wine & spirits exports to China surge in record-breaking 2021

vino-joy.com by NING SANG LAWATI02/03/2022  

In 2021, French wine and spirits export to mainland China surged 57% by value from 2020, thanks to the gradual recovery of on-trade wine business and reduction of Australian wine exports. 

2021 is a record-breaking year for French wines and spirits exports, according to the export figures published by Fédération des exportateurs de vins et spiritueux de France (FEVS). The total French wines and spirits export value have rebounded to €15.5 billion in 2021, which is a 28% increase from 2020.

The export value is also 11% above 2019’s level, proving that French wines and spirits exports have recovered from the pandemic loss, and surpassed the pre-pandemic level. All product categories and export regions saw signs of recovery. 

The trade balance in 2021 amounted to €14.2 billion, or a 29% year-on-year increase, which again secured the wines and spirits sector’s position as the second largest trade surplus of France, just behind the aeronautics sector.

In 2021, mainland China continued to be the third largest French wines and spirits export destination, after the US and the UK. The export value in 2021 posted a new record at €1.3 billion, representing a 57% increase from 2020. 

The growth was driven by relaxation of COVID-related health restrictions and the stoppage of Australian wine exports under the 218% anti-dumping tariffs, FEVS explains. 

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By category, the most significant growth was seen in Cognac, which rose to more than €700 million by value, a 55% increase from 2017’s peak. This is boosted by domestic tourism and regional duty-free markets such as the country’s biggest duty-free island Hainan.

French wines are especially benefiting from the sudden halt in Australian wine exports, linked to the diplomatic tensions between the two countries in the region, FEVS explains.

Direct exports of French wines to China during the year climbed by more than 37% in value to €524 million, or 11% growth compared to 2019, meaning French wine at least has returned to pre-Covid level inside the country despite its overall import contraction.

On the other hand, the Asia wine hub Hong Kong suffered a moderate drop in ranking to  become the ninth largest export market by value for French wines and spirits exports, from 2020’s eighth ranking.

In 2021, French wines and spirits exports to Hong Kong rose by 7% to €508 million, but Canada has surpassed Hong Kong with a 17.8% increase rate and €541 million export value. 

While France is still Hong Kong’s no.1 wine importer in 2021, FEVS said the recovery of wine trades with Hong Kong was hampered by travel restrictions and the closure of travel retail areas in the city. 

Compared to the UK, Finland and even stricter New Zealand which have relaxed Covid restrictions, Hong Kong is upholding a “zero-Covid” policy, flight bans and 14-day quarantine requirements for incomers, which hampers the city’s status as a free-trading and free-flow financial hub.