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Coronavirus reduces sparkle in Spain's cava industry

Video credit: Reuters Studio
Published on May 28, 2020 - Duration: 02:19s

Coronavirus reduces sparkle in Spain's cava industry

Spain's 1.2 billion euro cava sector has had a turbulent few years with a grape-farmers' strike, foreign buyouts of family firms and a sales hit from the Catalonia separatist crisis.

Ciara Lee reports

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Coronavirus reduces sparkle in Spain's cava industry

Grape-farmers striking, foreign buyouts, and sales hit by the Catalonia separatist crisis.

Spain's cava sector has had a turbulent few years.

All that before coronavirus forced the country into one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe.

Crushed tourism and closed restaurants for around two months have meant less thirst for the fizzy alcoholic drink.

Cava is mainly produced in the northeastern Catalonia region, and is a 1.2 billion euro - or 1.3 billion dollar industry.

But around 60% of producers have made temporary layoffs.

Damia Deas, chairman of the Institut del Cava business group representing 70% of cellars, believes sales could fall between 25% and 40% this year: "The optimists say that there is a 25% decrease and the pessimists say that it is 40%, so if we average those, we are at 30.35%.

The variation is due to the fact that different companies have different profile.

There are people who are more dedicated to exports and people who are more dedicated to the hotel industry.

So depending on the profile of the company, the impact on the drop in sales is different." About two-thirds of cava bottles are exported, in competition with French champagne and Italian prosecco.

Deas says that with harvest coming in mid-August, social distancing and hygiene measures won't be an issue: "Well, there will be no risks or damage in the logistical and work aspects of the harvest because people, both in the vineyard and in the winery, work with significant safety distances and we are never very close together and there are also open spaces, the same happens when we go to harvest in the vineyard, people are separated and never get close." To get business fizzing again, Spain's cava producers may want to borrow some ideas from Italy.

Social media initiatives, including tasting sessions via video and webinars with groups from Germany to China, have propped up the market for Italian bubbles.

Prosecco sales in the first four months of 2020 actually grew 0.4% compared to the same period last year.

And production in May was back at 2019 levels.

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