Allegrini 2018

Italian wine exports to third countries started out great, then slowed down, due to Covid-19

Mantovani, Vinitaly-Nomisma Wine Monitor Observatory, confirmed, “In the USA + 40% in value in the first two months, then down to -17.4% in March”

The coronavirus crisis struck a bitter blow to the world and the wine market. Italian wine exports started off 2020 brilliantly, then abruptly slowed down. March 2020 was a watershed month for the world wine trade. Italy played a positive role in the first two months of 2020, but dropped dramatically in March, following the termination of the US anti-duty stocks, corresponding to the beginning of the lockdown, because of the Coronavirus pandemic. This data is from the Vinitaly-Nomisma Wine Monitor Observatory, released today regarding wine sales in non-EU countries in the first quarter of 2020. On the whole, the tariff-based analysis indicates a two-sided global trend among the world's top buyers. The United States, which anticipated the increase in additional duties, cautiously stocked product and closed FQ 2020 in imports from the rest of the world at +10.9% in value, while China, which was already in the midst of the Covid-19 emergency, marked close to 20%decrease in imports over the same period in 2019. The worldwide demand for wine from Canada and Japan remained stable, and instead from Switzerland it was in the red (-10.8%).
Considering all these facts, Italy lost less in China (-13.3%) and gained more in the United States (+16.8%), while sales in Canada and Japan were still positive following the 2019 successes and the stable Swiss demand.

“Two external factors, tariffs and the pandemic, at first favored and then quickly penalized growth of our wine exports”, said Giovanni Mantovani, managing director of Veronafiere. “Just think, the US went from a record increase of 40% in value in the first two months of the year, to a sharp drop, -17.4% in March 2020. The impact of the pandemic on international markets will become even more apparent in the coming months, but we hope that by this autumn Italy will be the first to go back to China, where from the beginning, the lockdown had a domino effect on on-trade wine. The first edition of Wine to Asia is scheduled in Shenzhen (November 9th -11th), in addition to Vinitaly events in Hong Kong (November 5th -7th), and Chengdu”. Denis Pantini, head of the Vinitaly-Nomisma Wine Monitor Observatory, said, “sales of Italian still wines in the United States off-trade (large-scale retail trade and liquor stores) reached 94 million liters, representing only 40% of total imports in this segment. The question now rises as to what will happen to the other 60% of Italian still wines, and mainly if on-trade sales will be able to restart at the previous rhythms. Therefore, there is a need, especially for the premium segment, which is the most penalized, to work on a combination of channels that also feature e-commerce, which are growing strongly, and not only in the United States”. It is precisely higher quality wines that appear to have the biggest responsibility for the negative change in March. In Switzerland, the restaurant lockdown led to 14.6% decrease of the average import price compared to the same month in 2019, in the US, 10.5% drop, 9.5% drop in China and 11.5% drop in Norway. This downward trend hit also the Italian large-scale retail trade, according to the recent analysis that Vinitaly backed, and shows growth of medium-low range wines on the shelf, but a gradual reduction in the average value of the bottle.
As for competitors, off-trade is a field of fierce competition including Australian, Chilean and US wines, while the market leader, France, seems to be having more difficulty than Italy facing the economic situation, mainly due to conditions getting worse and worse in China (-37.2% in the first quarter), heavy loss in Switzerland (-24.6%) and the negative turn in Japan. It is doing well instead, thanks to sparklings, in the US, where the fear of 100% tariffs has triggered growth of Champagne imports to +93%.

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