World wine imports in 2020 falling across the board, except… | Per on Forbes

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We recently looked at the details of world wine exports. The other side of the coin is wine imports. In 2020 wine imports saw a decline. This mirrors the decline in exports that we described in the previous article. The drop in value of the imports is bigger than the drop in volume. The UK is the biggest wine importer counted in volume, followed by Germany and the USA. Looking at the values (euros), the USA is by far the biggest importer. The UK is second and Germany third.

Here is our previous article on world trade in wine and the wine exports in 2020.

Read all our articles in the Wine Global 2020 series here:

This is a longer version of an article published on Forbes.com.

"Shipping all over the world", sign on a wine shop in Bordeaux
"Shipping all over the world", sign on a wine shop in Bordeaux, copyright BKWine Photography

The biggest wine importing countries, by volume, 2020

In 2020 the UK overtook Germany to become the biggest wine importer, by volume.

The top wine importing countries, counted in volume, in 2020:

  1. UK 14.6 Mhl
  2. Germany 14.1 Mhl
  3. USA 12.3 Mhl
  4. France 6.3 Mhl
  5. Netherlands 4.7 Mhl
  6. Canada 4.5 Mhl
  7. China 4.3 Mhl
  8. Russia 3.5 Mhl
  9. Belgium 3.0 Mhl
  10. Portugal 2.7 Mhl
  11. Japan 2.6 Mhl
  12. Sweden 2.2 Mhl

The country that imports the biggest volumes of wine in 2020 was the United Kingdom. Its imports reached 14.6 million hectolitres. The UK was also one of the few countries that increased the imports – in volume – up 4.2%. This is perhaps surprising, considering the Brexit debacle and the difficulties that it has led to for wine imports.

Not far behind the UK we have Germany with 14.1 Mhl. The German imports declined, -5%, so it lost the tops spot for importers that it had in 2019.

The third biggest importer is the USA, with 12.3 Mhl, stable from 2019. It is also the biggest market for wine (the biggest total consumption) as mentioned in the preceding article on wine consumption.

After these three biggest importers (by volume) there is a big jump to number four, France. It takes just about half of what the US does with 6.3 Mhl.

It is followed by Netherlands, Canada, China, Russia, Belgium and Portugal.

Japan and Sweden squeezes in above 2 Mhl in imports in position 11 and 12. Japanese imports dropped, -9%, whereas Swedish imports grew with 3%.

Overall there has been a drop in import volumes. This mirrors the drop in exports. The biggest drop is for China, its imports declined dramatically: -30%. But as mentioned in an earlier article, Chinese statistics are not very reliable and have recently been revised, so it is uncertain if this is a real drop or if it reflects just a revision of the number to better tally with reality.

Russia and France have also seen considerable drops in imports.

Three of the top ten countries imported bigger volumes than in 2019: Netherlands, Canada and Great Britain. Add to this Sweden in place 12. One can only speculate why wine on these three (four) markets are performing better than in the others. Any suggestions? Write a comment!

Wine imports 2020, main importing countries, by volume
Wine imports 2020, main importing countries, by volume, copyright OIV

Wine imports 2020, by country, by volume, compared to 2019

# vol# val Volume ’20, MhlVolume ’19, Mhlchg ’20/’19chg in Mhl
12UK14.6144%0.6
23Germany14.114.8-5%-0.7
31USA12.312.30%0.0
410France6.37.2-14%-0.9
57Netherlands4.74.211%0.5
64Canada4.54.28%0.3
75China4.36.1-30%-1.8
89Russia3.54.5-21%-1.0
98Belgium3.03.1-4%-0.1
1012Portugal2.72.9-8%-0.2
116Japan2.62.8-9%-0.2
1211Sweden2.22.13%0.1
9999Top 1274.878.2-4%-3.4

The biggest wine importing countries, by value, 2020, shrinking

The picture and ranking order changes quite a bit if we look at the value of imports instead of the volume.

The biggest wine importers in 2020, counted in value:

  1. USA 5,160 M eur
  2. UK 3,804 M eur
  3. Germany 2,572 M eur
  4. Canada 1,727 M eur
  5. China 1,599 M eur
  6. Japan 1,366 M eur
  7. Netherlands 1,304 M eur
  8. Belgium 988 M eur
  9. Russia 948 M eur
  10. France 761 M eur
  11. Sweden 726 M eur
  12. Portugal 158 M eur

The biggest importer, by value, is the USA, buying 5.2 billion euro of wine. It is followed by the UK, Germany, Canada, and China.

Japan jumps up to position number 6 (from 11 in volume).

France, on the other hand drops to 10th place (from 4 in volume). Presumably that has to do with the large volumes of cheap bulk wine that it imports from Spain. I imagine some of this might be bottled/bib:ed in France and then re-exported.

In terms of growth, the picture is morose. Almost all countries saw a drop in the value of imports.

Two growing markets. Why the exceptions?

There are two remarkable exceptions to this uninspiring picture: the Netherlands and Sweden.

The Netherlands had an impressive growth of 9% in value (although it grew by 11% in volume). Well, impressive at least compared to what the other countries achieve.

Sweden saw the value of imports increase with 5%.

Why are these two countries performing so well?

Ulf Sjödin, head of categories at the Swedish monopoly, told us that Swedes have bought considerably more expensive wines in 2020 than previously, talking about retail purchases (off-license) in the monopoly shops. That may be an effect of the pandemic, that people were not drinking in restaurants and instead paying a bit more for what they drink at home, but still less than what they used to pay in restaurants with their high price multiples. That may be. But if so, why is this happening only in Sweden?

Write a comment if you have any suggestions!

(It seems to me there is an error concerning the UK in the left column in the below chart from the OIV. According to the detailed numbers and the chart main columns the UK decreased, -4%. Not +4%.)

Wine imports 2020, main importing countries, by value
Wine imports 2020, main importing countries, by value, copyright OIV

Wine imports 2020, by country, by value, compared to 2019

# vol# val Value ’20, M eurValue ’19, M eurchg ’20/’19chg in M euro
31USA 5,160 5,787 -10.8%-627
12UK 3,804 3,957 -3.9%-153
23Germany 2,572 2,635 -2.4%-63
64Canada 1,727 1,742 -0.9%-15
75China 1,599 2,182 -26.7%-583
116Japan 1,366 1,607 -15.0%-241
57Netherlands 1,304 1,198 8.8%106
98Belgium988 1,010 -2.2%-22
89Russia948 1,039 -8.8%-91
410France761869-12.4%-108
1211Sweden7266905.2%36
1012Portugal158164-3.7%-6
9999Top 12 21,113 22,880 -7.7%-1,767

Source: All data in this article comes from The International Organisation of Vine and Wine, OIV. Analysis and comments are BKWine’s.

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