China’s wine imports failed to recover in 2021 and has hit a historical low, continuing a worrying downward trend as the latest customs data has shown, with both volume and value contracting during the 12 months.
Wine imports overall declined by 1.4% in volume to 426 million liters but in terms of value, the drop accelerated.
In the 12 months of 2021, the country’s overall wine import plunged by 13.1% by value to RMB 10.97 billion (USD 1.724 billion) from 2020, which is already a low comparison base.
This would make it the country’s lowest wine import value since 2015 (see chart below).
This also means that the country’s wine market failed to return to pre-Covid pandemic level in 2019, as previously expected, signaling market recovery will take longer than usual compounded by prolonged Covid restrictions and strict border control.
Despite China’s early containment of the pandemic spread within the country, the country sticks to a stringent ‘Zero-Covid policy’, which means that any surge of Covid cases would be dealt with strictest countermeasures such as city-wide lockdown.
As a result, the country’s afflicted wine consumption driven by on-trade consumption from restaurants, bars and hotels are buffeted by outbreaks throughout 2021.
Wine merchants in Dalian, a coastal city in northeastern China that had become the epicenter of the country’s biggest Delta outbreak last October, complained about devastating impacts on wine sales.
In an interview with WBO, Yang Guang from a local wine company, Dalian Youpin Jiuhui(优品酒汇), estimated the control measures would shave off wine sales in the 20 days affected by more than 66% over the same period last year.
No official data has been released yet on the country’s current number of wine merchants still in business.
Meanwhile, China’s domestic wine production has also plunged to a new low in recent years.
Total wine production was recorded at 2.68 million hectoliters, a year-on-year drop of 29.08% over previous year.