Home/FIVS Alerts/Focus on Coronavirus: Notable Policy Developments Around the World – 28 April 2020

Focus on Coronavirus: Notable Policy Developments Around the World – 28 April 2020


We would like to share the following items, which describe the impact that the coronavirus pandemic is having on the industry. As always, we encourage you to send us items that may be of interest to our members.

Calls for protecting the wine sector around the world –

  • Argentina: More than 250 Argentinian wineries have reportedly approached their national government for support during the pandemic, asking that wine cellars be exempted from quarantine measures, that the prohibition of wine sales in 50 cities throughout eight provinces be annulled, that withholdings on wine products with added value be eliminated, that wineries be permitted to freely set prices for table wines, and that mandatory contributions of wineries to the Argentine Wine Corporation be eliminated.
    • The Business Chamber of Wineries of Argentina has reportedly asked the Argentinian government to suspend mandatory payments, which range from 4 to 26 cents per liter of sold beverages, to the Argentine Wine Corporation, which implements strategic plans and promotes the export of Argentinian wines.
  • Europe: This press release from Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins (CEEV) describes the release of its COVID-19 Wine Package, which includes both emergency measures to preserve wine companies and their finances and recovery measures to rebuild wine markets and regain global market shares. Read the full report here.
  • Ireland: The Irish drinks industry has joined the national effort to respond to the COVID-19 crisis in many different ways despite being hard-hit itself by the pandemic. Drinks Ireland has produced this detailed briefing paper outlining its contributions and setting forth policies that it believes the Irish Government should adopt to support this sector. We understand that this document will be revised as matters progress, e.g., re-openings, re-bootings, etc.
  • Italy: A group of Italian wine trade associations has reportedly approached its government for the third time, reaffirming the critical need for the government to guarantee corporate liquidity during the pandemic, as well as to entertain other suggested proposals.
  • Portugal: The Social Democratic Party (PSD) reportedly considers government support for the wine sector in Portugal insufficient and the PSD’s parliamentary group has demanded “greater dynamics, speed, and innovation” in measures to help the industry.

Beer sales have fallen and small breweries have been especially hard hit –

  • Netherlands: Nederlandse Brouwers reports that Dutch beer sales have fallen by 36 percent and the sales of smaller brewers have reportedly dropped by more than 90 percent.
  • Portugal: The governing board of Cervejeiros de Portugal, an association representing beer production in Portugal, has reportedly written to the Minister of State for the Economy and Digital Transition, calling urgently for support of the beer industry, including a moratorium of at least six months in payment of the Special Consumption Tax on Beer.
  • United Kingdom: The Society of Independent Brewers reports that beer sales in the UK have fallen by 82 percent during the pandemic and that two-thirds of independent brewers there have ceased production.
    • United Kingdom: The Campaign for Real Ale estimates that 50 million pints of beer in pubs throughout the UK may spoil if the lockdown continues several months more.
  • United States: A survey conducted by the Brewers Association reportedly found that 60 percent of small U.S. breweries believe they will be forced to close their doors by mid-July if the lockdown continues.

Government policies regarding the lockdown –

  • Namibia: The President of Namibia has reportedly extended the nation’s lockdown regarding the pandemic from 17 April to 04 May, including the ban on the sale of alcohol.
  • United States: Alcohol industry experts worry that differing regulations among the states regarding sales during the pandemic may lead to cross-border buying, economic confusion, and black market sales, and suggest that state governors should consider the effect of their policies on consumption and public health.
    • Pennsylvania: Following the example of three West Virginia counties, Ohio’s governor has reportedly barred out-of-state residents from buying liquor in counties that border Pennsylvania in order to discourage Pennsylvanians from coming into the state. Pennsylvania’s governor closed liquor stores on 17 March in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Providing information regarding alcohol and the coronavirus –

  • World Health Organisation: Noting that consumption of high-strength alcohol does not offer protection from COVID-19 and can result in death, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Regional Office for Europe has reportedly encouraged governments to enforce measures to minimise alcohol consumption during the pandemic.
    • More specifically, the WHO amplified on the fact sheet issued by WHO Europe in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fact sheet takes the position that there is no “safe limit” of alcohol consumption. The attached paper by the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking  provides a useful analysis of this matter.
  • Kenya: The French brandy distiller Hennessy issued a statement refuting false claims that any alcohol beverage offers protection from the coronavirus after a Kenyan politician falsely claimed that the World Health Organisation had proven that alcohol helps to cure COVID-19.
  • Russia: Although recent official statistics showed Russians drinking one-third less alcohol per year than in 2003, the sale of vodka there rose by 65 percent during the last week of March, compared with previous the month, in part due to a false belief that consumption of vodka can kill the coronavirus. As alcohol-related violence has risen, parts of the country have begun restricting the sale of alcohol.