Boycotts of French goods began across the world last June, when President Jacques Chirac announced that France would resume nuclear testing at Mururoa atoll in the Pacific. In Britain, France's most valued export market for wine, protest groups asked shoppers to opt for wines other than those from France.
Figures released by the Government's statistical service covering the third quarter of 1995 show that the volume of still wine imported into Britain from France fell dramatically, from just over 74 million litres in summer 1994 to just over 54 million litres last summer, while imports of sparkling wine fell from 6 million litres to 4 million. French imports of still wine amounted to 30 per cent of wine imports into Britain by volume between July and September 1995, down from 33.4 per cent in the same period in 1994. In the 18 months prior to the protests, the share of French wine imports averaged 35.5 per cent. French wine growers' share of EU imports into Britain fell to 53 per cent in the summer of 1995, down from 70 per cent the previous summer.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament's press spokesman, Eddie Goncalves, believes the slump in French wine sales is a direct consequence of public outrage. "Consumer boycotts are the peaceful political weapon of the 1990s," he said.
CND called off the boycott yesterday. "I've had a bottle of French bubbly in my house since last August which a friend bought by accident," said Mr Goncalves. "Some time this weekend I will be opening it.
"The fact is that a hell of a lot of people were waiting to see if the French went ahead with their threat and I think that in the final quarter of 1995 the figures will show an even bigger impact."
The British Nuclear Test Ban Coalition, which promoted consumer action last summer, concentrated its fire on French wine. The coalition ran an ad showing a sniper's gun being fired at the terrace of a French restaurant. A wine bottle is hit, showering a Chirac lookalike with red wine. "Drop a bomb on Chirac's plans. Boycott French wine" was the slogan.