In the aisles of the Salon de l'Agriculture, Porte de Versailles in Paris, the time is clearly not to panic and the traditional crowd flows, according to the animations and stands. Nevertheless: between the epidemic of coronavirus in China and the latest news, hardly reassuring, coming from Italy, a certain number of exhibitors no longer hide their concern, in particular the wine growers.
"We recently exported a container and a half of bottles, that is 6 to 7% of our production, but since then, we have had no news and we believe that the wine is not selling", explains Jean Dufour, partner from Château Simon (in New Aquitaine). Certainly, explains this winemaker, "the surge in American taxes worries us even more, but this lack of visibility on China, where the whole economy is idling, really worries us". Concern increased by the fact that the house Dufour exports "also Sauternes to Italy", he underlines.
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A few stands away, winegrower Jean-Christophe Darriet, too, begins to do his accounts. "An order that I had to send at the end of March-beginning of April for China, and which represents 30% of my turnover in Asia, will be postponed by two to three months", regrets this operator.
"All of our members are suspended at the end of this health crisis," confirms Jean-Marie Fabre, the president of the Independent Winegrowers of France, who recalls that the turnover of the profession in China is around "600 and 700 million 'euros per year'… However, since mid-January, the drop in commercial activity has been clear: “Our Chinese importers no longer place orders, and moreover, we no longer ship from France, because there, ports and warehouses are closed. If this continues, we will move towards partial unemployment or even layoffs. "
Containers blocked, orders down ...
A few meters away, the milk professionals, too, are not calm, especially since China is the world's largest importer of milk. At Lactalis - the world's leading cheese processor - it is emphasized that “there are no more orders planned for the month of March. And the situation is all the more worrying as our containers are blocked on the spot, ”formulates a spokesperson for the manufacturer.
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At CNIEL (the milk trade), we abound: "Last week again, the impact was just potential, with a time lag in orders, but there the containers do not even leave here anymore, and our stocks explode, ”explains Mélanie Richard, economist at CNIEL. Another concern, pointed out by Loic Molères of the Dairy Processing Association (ATLA): "Due to the drop in demand in China, prices are starting to decrease, which will impact the new contracts signed" between farmers and milk collectors.
Pork professionals, finally, point to a final problem: "Between the ships returning empty and the lack of availability of containers, the cost of transport has jumped, from 15 to 27 cents per kg," explains François Valy, the president of the National Pork Federation (FNP). However, on the pork side, good news arrived this morning. "The containers that were blocked will finally be unloaded," says François Valy. The cause of this divine surprise? "Because of the swine fever epidemic that continues in China, the Chinese, who consume 38 kg of pork per capita and per year, are forced to unblock deliveries from Europe if they want to continue eating ..."