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Affected grapes Bayer to refund winegrowers for fungicide damage

The Swiss Winegrowers’ Federation says the fungicide problem means the overall grape harvest this year was down by 4.85%

(Keystone)

The German chemical giant Bayer will reimburse Swiss winegrowers whose crops were damaged after using its Moon Privilege fungicide. Total compensation could amount to CHF90 million ($92 million), according to a recent estimate. 

On Tuesday, Bayer announced that it would reimburse Swiss winegrowers who had used the fungicide last year and experienced poor crop yields due to growth problems of grapes. The chemical firm said it had taken the decision despite there being no clear proof so far that the product was to blame. 

Some 900 growers in Switzerland have claimed that their grape harvests have been damaged after using Bayer’s Moon Privilege fungicide. Affected plants have deformed leaves and dried, shrivelled grapes, and winegrowers reported lower yields this year.

Until now, Bayer had said it was investigating but had rejected legal responsibility.

According to the Swiss Winegrowers’ Federation, the fungicide problem meant that the overall grape harvest this year was down by 4.85%, representing 6.6 million kilogrammes of grapes. A Swiss public television, RTS, documentary broadcast on September 13 reported that around 2,000 hectares of crops out of a total of 15,000 have been affected after being treated with Moon Privilege. 

Bayer said individual offers of compensation would be made to winegrowers in early 2016 but it refuses to reveal the amounts. Winegrowers had written to Bayer demanding compensation, which could amount to up to CHF90 million ($92 million), according to the Swiss Winegrowers’ Federation. 

Investigating

The chemical firm said investigations were continuing into the possible cause of the damage. But it said it was most probably due to a combination of factors during the 2014 season.

“There are indications that the growth anomalies arose in most cases when Moon Privilege was applied in the final growth phases of the vines and when it was extremely wet weather,” Bayer said in a statement.

The firm had recently advised wine grape growers not to use its Moon Privilege fungicide until it had properly investigated the issue. The Federal Office for Agriculture suspended authorisation for Moon Privilege in July as a precautionary measure, and to avoid further damage in 2016. 

On Wednesday, Jürg Jordi from the Agriculture Office told Swiss public radio, SRF, that the approval process for such products would now last at least one year longer “because damage must be investigated which might not appear until the following year”. 

Until now, side effects have been controlled only during the vegetation period. This was the first time side effects had been observed the year after application, Jordi added.

swissinfo with agencies

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