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EU considers wine subsidies

Stephen Beard Jun 22, 2006

TEXT OF STORY

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: For connoisseurs of government subsidy here’s a new one to savor, to roll over your palate: The European Commission in Brussels wants to pay wine growers to rip up their vineyards. Stephen Beard explains why.

STEPHEN BEARD: Farm subsidies here have, over the years, led to large unsellable surpluses.

One of the largest and most persistent in wine. Two and a half billion liters of the stuff — that’s 10 bottles for every man woman and child in the EU — go unsold every year.

This is partly due to intense competition from Californian and Australian growers. But dealing with the EU wine lake accounts for a half of the European Commission’s wine subsidy budget says spokesman Michael Mann.

MICHAEL MANN: We’re spending as much as half a billion euros a year purely on measures to try to get rid of the surplus which is absolutely ridiculous and we need to really look at ways of spending the money much, much more intelligently.

The Commission wants to spend it inducing European winegrowers to dig up 15 percent of their vines. And it wants them to pay more attention to the way New World producers package and sell their products.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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