Sales and exports of French spirits have continued to fall since the start of the year, as consumers cut back on spending amid rising inflation, announced the French Spirits Federation (FFS) on Thursday, which is also concerned about growing trade tensions with some of its main markets.

On Wednesday, cognac producers said they were "deeply" concerned about the possible conclusions of an anti-competitive investigation launched in January by China, after the European Commission imposed customs duties on imports of Chinese electric vehicles into Europe.

Exports of French spirits fell by 13.2% last year in volume, to 406 million liters, and by 12.2% in value, to 4.8 billion euros, announced the FFS, with in particular a collapse of 36% in value and 35% in volume to the United States.

Cognac exports, which account for 70% of the total, plunged by 21% in volume in 2023. China accounted for 19.4% of these exports, according to cognac producers.

"The consequences of inflation in third countries are now giving way to ongoing trade conflicts whose resolution is threatened, such as the United States, for example, with uncertain presidential elections, or those emerging along the lines of the anti-dumping investigation launched by China", says the FFS.

Remy Cointreau shares, which derive a significant part of their revenues from the Asian market, lost 6.02% on Thursday on the Paris Bourse, falling to a seven-year low. Pernod Ricard also suffered, but to a much lesser extent (-0.93%).

In 2024, nearly two-thirds of spirits exports, in value terms, will be shipped to "high-risk markets", says the FFS.

Export markets are all the more important given the steady decline in alcohol consumption in France, with a drop of around 60% in 60 years.

Sales of spirits in supermarkets have fallen by almost 10% since 2020, and by 4.3% in 2023 alone, to 251 million liters, the FFS said.

"The first few months of 2024 leave an even more bitter taste: volumes are down by around 5% on the previous year, and the downward trend is accelerating", the federation warns.

Certain categories served in cocktails, such as gin, have been spared, however, unlike digestifs, with declines of 6.4% for whiskies and 3.8% for rums over the first few months of the year. (Reported by Sybille de la Hamaide, Bertrand Boucey, edited by Sophie Louet)