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EU Drowns In Wine Lake 23 June 2006

Posted by David in Europe.
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Once, talk of wine lakes and butter mountains was just either the Winedaydreams of a drunk or a sure fire way of getting a ride with white coated officials to the finest mental health institution the NHS had to offer. “What,” they would say, ”they subsidise the production of cheap, rubbish and unwanted wine then buy it, then destroy it, because no one bought it? That’s mad.” “That’s the EU,” we say now.

Yes this is the news – reported here before it hit the newspapers I smugly add – of the EU wine lake saga. Instead of just letting the market decide prices, the EU spends taxpayers money subsidising wine production, then moaning the price of wine is too low. So they buy unwanted wine to the tune of half a billion Euros each year, forcing up costs through supply and demand. Taxpayers pay three times – subsidy, wine bought for destruction, and higher prices.

So they talk of reform, but the command economy prevails again. The European Union wishes to ban vineyards from opening or expanding, and reduce the EU wide production by one eighth. The successful and growing English wine sector – including Tenterden Vineyard that beat all in a Sunday Times blind taste test – will thus be at best stifled and possibly reduced. This is made all the worse as no English Vineyards are subsidised, surviving independently and successfully in this market that is in fact rigged against them, so they’ll be held back or closed for loss making wines dependent on subsidy.

It’s madness. To top it off the standardisation brigade are about, or the “let us call it harmonisation to soothe British feelings” brigade as Schroeder preferred. Wines will be labelled by region, not by the producer. After all, we can’t have variety, consumer choice and competition can we? Do you get the feeling they’re obsessed with standardisation?

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