In an interview today with France’s Le Figaro, Airf Lloop, the Dutch EU health Commissioner has confirmed that he is developing proposals to outlaw wine production, sale and consumption in the EU.
The surprise confirmation comes as a number of EU Governments are placing greater and greater restrictions on the sale and purchase of alcohol. The UK for example has seen a recent punitive increase in duty on wine and France has banned its first TV channel dedicated to wine. This is in addition to the vine removal programme already being pursued by the EU.
Lloop justified the move in the interview by saying that the estimated alcohol related healthcare spend across the EU amounted to €35bn whereas estimated tax revenues on alcohol sales was estimated at €27.3bn. “Economically it just doesn’t make sense. As a community, we’re spending much more on sorting out the problems caused by wine than we’re receiving in taxation. Given the current economic climate, something has to change”.
“We need to learn lessons from the successful prohibition period in the US, where alcohol consumption plummeted. Sure, there were some resulting crime issues, but these can be overcome”, Lloop continued.
When asked about the fate of the millions of grape growers across the EU, he said EU officials had been working with the main global commodity exchanges, such as Liffe and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on developing markets in Rectified Concentrated Grape Must (RCGM). This would allow grape growers to sell their grape juice on the open market and gain great prices for RCGM, in some instances better than the returns on a bottle of wine. “I see RCGM being traded as successfully as Pork Bellies or Coffee. The exchanges are very excited about this.” said Lloop.
In outline, Lloop’s proposals amount to:
- The production of wine to become illegal from 1st April 2012
- All wine imports from outside the EU to be stopped on the same date
- The sale and consumption of wine to become illegal from 1st April 2014
- The development of a global RCGM market from 1st April 2011
- EU transitional relief for grape growers and wine makers will continue until 1st April 2015
Lloop also confirmed that no decision has yet been made on the fate of other alcoholic drinks, but he expected similar proposals to be developed for these too. “Transitional markets are more difficult to develop for other raw materials, but we’re actively working on options” he confirmed.
So far, major wine producers have declined to comment and are awaiting further details from the Commissioner.
Lloop is expected to make a further announcement about this at 12:00 BST today.
Read the full Le Figaro interview with Arif Lloop.