Additional study of the European Commission on the Regulation on the sustainable use of plant protection products (SUR): The European wine sector voices concern for its future
5 July 2023 – Following the publication by the European Commission of its “additional study” on the SUR Regulation, the European wine sector expresses deep concerns about its future.
European winegrowers share the overall objective of the European Commission (EC) to reduce the use of the most hazardous plant protection products. For many years, they have been working towards this goal through innovation and by evolving their practices to preserve the quality of their wines while addressing the challenges of sustainability, which are based on three interdependent pillars: economic, environmental, and social.
The European Union is the world’s leading wine producer, accounting for 45% of the world’s wine-growing area. This high-value-added sector significantly contributes to the vitality of many European regions where economic activity would be practically non-existent without vineyards. As the leading agri-food sector in terms of exports, it also plays a positive role in the EU’s trade balance.
European viticulture is unique, characterised by its protected designations of origin and geographical indications, which shape territories and landscapes and cannot be relocated. Numerous vineyards benefit from protection measures at local, regional, national, and sometimes even international level, via UNESCO. Vineyards offer diverse landscapes and ecosystems that harbour a wide range of living species. These biodiversity potentials should continue to be preserved.
Producers are fully committed to the ecological transition, as evidenced by the increasing use of environmental certifications, the greening of vineyards, the introduction of agri-environmental provisions in product specifications or sectoral plans, research on resistant varieties and the development of organic winegrowing areas.
However, this trajectory towards greater sustainability can only be strengthened if the set objectives are attainable. To achieve this, effective alternatives to phytopharmaceutical products are essential to support vine in a sustainable transition that considers the viability of the plant and the time required for research. Despite decades of research and experimentation, there are still no effective solutions to cryptogamic diseases such as mildew and oidium. The vine has no natural resistance to these diseases and, in years of high pressure, 100% of the grapes can be lost within a few days without the use of inputs. Although the experimentation of resistant varieties that meet quality standards and respect the organoleptic properties of the wines is underway, this is a long-term process, as it takes time to adapt and validate these approaches, which are the result of lengthy research processes.
In addition, the competitiveness of winegrowers, and in particular SMEs, must be maintained to support them in their sustainability efforts. This balance could be compromised due to the expected production declines within a short period and without alternative technical solution.
Against this backdrop, the European Commission’s legislative proposal is unrealistic for winegrowing, unless it calls into question the future of this sector in the EU. However, this seems to be the choice that the European Commission wants to make without any reservation.
The results highlighted by the EC’s additional study on the impact of plant protection products are deeply concerning. Projections show estimated production declines of -28% for grapes in France, -20% in Italy and -18% in Spain. These alarming figures do not take into account the impact of climatic hazards (hail, frost, drought, etc.), which regularly have repercussions on European wine production.
In the additional analysis published today, the European Commission explains that this does not pose a major problem, arguing that grapes, and therefore wine, are not an essential crop for European food security. However, it is crucial to measure the vital economic and social contribution of viticulture in many regions of the EU, as well as the cultural heritage that vines and wine represent for the producing Member States. Without vineyards, many European regions would be deprived of wealth creation, jobs and tourism, and as a result, rural development and the development of these territories would be significantly impacted.
The approach resulting from the conclusions of the Commission’s analysis is worrying for the future of the sector and suggests a total lack of consideration for what European viticulture represents. Dialogue with the relevant stakeholders should be a priority to support the transition.
The European wine sector aspires to be a player in the ecological transition, which must be done in a sustainable way, without sacrificing the future of this sector and of European wine regions, to the benefit of competitors from third countries who do not adhere to the same sanitary rules. Therefore, it is crucial for European decision-makers to develop a realistic action plan that takes into account the time needed to find and implement effective alternative solutions to the use of plant protection products.
On behalf of the following organisations:
AREV, The Assembly of European Wine Regions (http://www.arev.org), created 34 years ago, is based in Brussels and has some fifty European member regions, represented by a double base: elected regional politicians and representatives of winegrowing professional organisations. This model gives the AREV a unique statutory and historical legitimacy.
CEVI, the European Confederation of Independents Winegrowers (www.cevi-eciw.eu) is the only organisation representing and defending the interests of independent winegrowers at European level. CEVI counts today 12 000 members from 12 different States. Independent winegrowers are entrepreneurs at the head of a micro / small enterprise, often a family business. They make everything from the vineyard to the glass meaning that they produce and sell their wines directly to the consumer.
Copa and Cogeca are the united voice of farmers and agri-cooperatives in the EU. Copa represents over 22 million farmers and their families whilst Cogeca represents the interests of 22,000 agricultural cooperatives.
EFOW, the European Federation of Origin Wines (www.efow.eu), is the organisation representing PDO and PGI wines towards European institutions. As the voice of origin wines, our mission is to protect and promote the GI concept in all policy areas.