Imported wine could hit BC grocery stores

The new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement could open up grocery stores in British Columbia to non-BC wines by November 2019. 

To promote BC wines, the government allowed exclusive access to grocery stores in the province for local wine producers - but that deal is now threatened under the new trade pact.

The BC Wine Institute's Miles Prodan says it's frustrating to hear American wine producers are pushing for access to grocery stores, when there are 1,100 outlets in BC offering imported wine and only 29 grocery stores offering VQA wines.

"The grocery was a simple way for us to promote BC wine, that's what those licenses were intended to do, and now we have to look at opening it up. I'm not sure how we're going to do that;  I'm not sure how we're going to select which BC wineries go in there - or which foreign wineries," he says.  

Prodan says the frustrating part is that under the original NAFTA deal - tariffs were removed from California wines in return for allowing local wine producers access to BC retail markets through VQA stores.

"They don't object to those licenses, but what they do object to, it seems, is that when we took those licenses - again long standing and predating NAFTA, and moved them onto grocery shelves suddenly they took issue and wanted access," he says. 

Prodan says there is a 'Made in Canada' solution.

"If we had Canadian free trade, we wouldn't be as worried about this because we'd be able to sell our wine, and deliver our wine, directly to Canadians and not have to keep worrying about looking over our shoulder about opening up access for foreign wines - like we always seem to do with all the trade agreements - so it really brings home the point that we need to be able to sell and ship our wine to Canadians across the country." 

Prodan says the deadline under the new trade deal, to open grocery stores to imported wine, is November 2019 - but he's hopeful an agreement can be reached that continues to protect the BC wine industry.