Thursday, June 21, 2007

“Managed” Out of a Job

Not free to choose: regulated and managed out of existence, some French wine-growers have taken direct action.

Trimming the vines in the 17 hectares of vineyard which used to support his family, wine-grower Francois Thiebaud is in despair because of plummeting wine prices.

He says that he and many other wine-makers in this region are now fighting for survival: "We're working at a loss," he tells me.

"We've lost between 40 and 50% of our income because of falling prices and the big cut taken by the middle-men.

"I can only afford to carry on working in the vineyards because my wife has another job.

"And some wine-makers have to claim social security benefits, because they earn so little that they can't feed their families.
Were these artisans able to get out of the political trap of demanding help, and then accepting it, they wouldn’t be in the position they’re in. The uncontrollable Euro-desire to ‘control’ the value of French wines in a pretext to protect the farmer has accomplished the reverse altogether. With a sterling reputation, and a history of producing the best wines anywhere in the world, the regime has even rendered the value of even the un-exported product sold locally to a market making 1st world earnings and an appreciation and willingness for wines has been undervalued.

Worldwide, the concept of the subsidy (as opposed to a low-threshold ‘safety-net’ to protect against weather and other events) has failed. It’s even worse when the commodity also requires specific craftsmanship, topography, and soil. These farms couldn’t grow oats or maize.

The failure is in Europe’s omnipresent ‘systems’ and ‘regimes’ that haven’t permitted these growers, or any other ones, to sort out for themselves how they’re operate at a profit. Even the system of apellations dooms some and protects others, some of which don’t deserve it.
Beyond that, they are talked out of figuring out for themselves whether they even belong in the business – the fetishization of ‘the land’ means that a wine-grower can’t just abandon his vines for something else without changing the terms of his state ‘support’ that manipulates the supply, and does as much to suppress prices as it’s meant to prop it up.

If you don’t buy that idea, look at where the expanding producers and markets are: Australia, the US, Canada, New Zealand... all places where the market for making, selling, importing, and exporting wines isn’t manipulated in the European manner.

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