Cheesus crisis! ‘Cry of alarm’ as Covid-19 bites French cheese industry after coming for iconic wines
Two of France's favorite pastimes — eating cheese and drinking wine — are under threat as the Covid-19 pandemic forced the closure of restaurants, markets and pubs. Producers fear France's key industries might not survive.
Producers of France’s top quality ‘protected designation of origin’ (PDO) cheeses are struggling to stay afloat, industry group Sodiaal warned in a statement on Wednesday.
PDO cheeses have recorded a “drop in orders of 25 to 80 percent” since the beginning of France’s coronavirus lockdown measures came into force, the French dairy cooperative said.
There are 45 cheeses which have been awarded PDO status in France; a mark of quality identified by a red and yellow logo, and which can only be granted by official authorities.Also on rt.com Covid-19 drags French economy into deep recession the likes of which it has not seen since 1945
Now, some of them may not even survive the Covid-19 lockdown, Sodiaal warned, calling on mass retailers to promote the products as much as possible.
"It is a cry of alarm. It is urgent that our distributors help us, that supermarkets relieve this sector that will die otherwise," said Olivier Athimon, managing director for Sodiaal’s cheese activities.
Three of the cooperative's 21 cheese factories have already been temporarily closed and "others soon will be," he said, adding that PDO cheeses are a part of France’s “gastronomic heritage” and one that could go away. Sections of the rural economy could “disappear” given the importance of PDO milk production in certain regions, he said.
“We are asking distributors to activate all the levers at their disposal to offer consumers a varied range of cheese: diversify and extend the PDOs in the popular drives and distribution channels,” Athimon pleaded.
The Covid-19 crisis has also been bad news for the French wine industry, as wine fairs have been canceled and postponed and export sales are dropping, given the worldwide lockdowns which have seen pubs, restaurants and bars shuttered to deal with the pandemic. Exports of champagne and French wines to China alone are expected to drop by 50 percent.
France entered into a national lockdown on March 17 as part of efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19. It was already extended once to April 15, but authorities are now warning that it could be extended again beyond that date, as France becomes the world's fourth-worst-hit country in the world, with the number of deaths from the infection surging past 10,000.
Economic activity in France plunged 32 percent over the last two weeks and the national economy shrank by around 6 percent during the first three months of the year.
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