Allegrini 2018

Vinitaly postponed: wine (not only from Italy) crushed between the US ban and the Chinese crisis

Rumors say Veronafiere taking a step back. The effects of Covid-19 on the world wine economy
Vinitaly, Italian wine’s reference fair

Uncertainty is the atmosphere that reigns across the wine world and its various promotion and business events, during the coronavirus emergency. And, specifically, in light of what the US government has decided; i.e., strongly discouraging travel to Northern Italy. Consequently, American Airlines and Delta have canceled direct flights to Milan, respectively until April 25th and May 1st. China, instead, is experiencing a moment of forced isolationism on a larger scale even than Italy’s. This is definitely not the best climate in which to have a great wine fair like Vinitaly, and so rumors have it Veronafiere will likely take a step back (rumors also say it is being reprogrammed to June 14-17, 2020, together with the Opera Wine prologue, and Wine Spectator, on June 13th, ed.), which, having confirmed (on February 26th), mixed with hope and courage, the dates scheduled (April 19-22), now seems willing to follow in the footsteps of Düsseldorf Messe that has postponed ProWein to a future date (the talk is about June, but the German fair has still not confirmed dates to WineNews’ requests). Taking a broader look to include the axis that goes from the US to China, the picture comes out in fuzzy colors. Statistics in February showed 760 million people under different levels of quarantine or limitations. Restaurants in Shanghai, Macau, Guangzhou and Hong Kong have been forced to close three weeks, and even though some firms reopened, business is still having severe difficulty, while the consumption of wine in China is inevitably suffering. Yoshi Shibuya, CEO of ASC Fine Wines, one of the largest importers in the country, told “Wine Spectator” that even in key cities for the Chinese economy, such as Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, where the emergency is not as high, “Restaurants, etc. are closed, and the government is urging people not to go out. The result of all of this, between closings and half-openings, is a drop in revenues during the month of February that many restaurateurs quantify in 70-80% decrease”. Wine, of course, suffers in this situation, especially because consumption is linked to catering much more than to on premise.
And if this were still not enough, even at a logistical level there are significant obstacles. A large number of employees at ports and customs are not currently at work, and this means that the products, including wine, remain there immobile for days, if not weeks; at least those that are arriving, since Chilean wine, for example, recorded a 50% drop in shipments in February. Alberto Fernandez, head of Torres, referring to the Chinese market, said, “the atmosphere is worse than what we experienced at the time of Sars. It could mean for us a drop in sales of 80% in February and 50% in March”. Plus one must consider the long-term impacts, like Chinese families’ savings, which are already depleted due to two years of trade war with the USA.
Meanwhile, as we mentioned at the beginning of the article, the eyes of the world, and especially of the United States, have all moved towards Italy, the western country that is experiencing the most delicate situation. Over 2.000 cases have been ascertained, air connections with the USA and other countries are increasingly difficult, from Turkey to Israel, and there is a red area - where travel is not recommended - which includes two of the key regions for Italy’s economy: Lombardy and Veneto. And then there are also absurd requests of some importers for certificates that ensure the safety of Italian food, which the European Union has defined unjustified, because - as EFSA has pointed out several times and the Italian institutions and trade associations at all levels have reaffirmed - this is an unnecessary request on food for a virus that is transmitted only from human to human.
Returning to the dates for the great wine events, while the dates of Vinitaly (April 19th -22nd) currently confirmed by Veronafiere, but uncertainty is hovering, and waiting to find out when ProWein will be on the calendar (June, it seems but the German fair, solicited by WineNews, has not talked about dates), though it is officially postponed, the London Wine Fair will not be postponed, (but we must use the conditional, at this time), while Vinexpo in New York, yesterday and today, has seen a significant drop in exhibitors. The numbers have gone from over 400 in 2019 to 266 this year, and instead the number of participants – 3.000 from the USA and Canada – is in line, according to the organizers, with last year. In addition, there are also two other official events at the fair. One is from the Cesena Fiera board of directors, which confirms Macfrut’s scheduled dates, the international fruit and vegetable fair to be held regularly from May 5th to 7th at the Rimini Fair. The other is from Parma Fair, which a few days ago had confirmed the dates of CIBUS (May 11th to14th), and has instead now announced that it will be postponed until September.

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