Exports of Italian wine are drying up as the coronavirus batters demand on a level not seen for 30 years, the agricultural trade union Coldiretti said on Friday.
Exports have slumped 4.0 percent so far this year after the virus forced the closure of restaurants in Italy and elsewhere, leaving domestic producers on the rack and exporters also hit badly.
Consumption of Italian wine in China, where the virus first emerged in December, nosedived 44 percent in the period between January and May, data compiled by the national statistics institute Istat showed.
In France, it dropped 14 percent and in Britain -- where uncertainty over Brexit also played a role -- it fell 12 percent.
By contrast, exports to Germany and the United States -- where punitive customs duties could cloud the trend in future -- were stable over the same period, slipping by just one percent, Coldiretti said.
Wine is Italy's main agricultural earner in the US, with exports amounting to 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion) annually.
In 2019, Italy exported a total 6.4 billion euros worth of wine overall.
"With almost four out of 10 producers in difficulty after the (coronavirus) crisis, we must swiftly intervene to support exports, reduce costs and cumbersome administration," said Coldiretti chairman Ettore Prandini.
In June, the Italian government adopted a decree allowing some 70 million bottles of surplus wine stocks to be turned into hand sanitiser gel to ease shortages as the virus took hold.