LOCAL winemakers and the Balearic ministry of agriculture have welcomed the Spanish government's decision to shelve a law which had sought to limit wine advertising after ministers and wine producers failed to reach a compromise.

Spanish Health Minister Elena Salgado, who has banned smoking in some public places and clashed with the fast food industry over high-fat burgers, had wanted to curb advertising of alcoholic drinks including wine -- mainly out of a concern that Spanish children are drinking too much. “We think the issue of children's health should not have been turned into a confrontation ... and so we think that the best thing to do now is suspend the passage of the law,” Salgado told a news conference. She did not specify when the law would be looked at again.

The agriculture ministry, with farm unions and wine producers, had argued that wine is an essential part of the Mediterranean diet and culture and deserves to be an exception.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero had promised he would not allow the draft law on alcohol advertising to be passed without the wine industry's agreement. The government had diluted the draft law so that it would restrict wine advertising only on primetime TV viewing by children, but the industry had insisted that wine should be excluded altogether.

Spain is the third largest wine producer in the European Union after France and Italy. It is expected to produce 11 percent more wine this year, to take it to 38.5 million hectolitres, compared with France's 53.5 million, according to the Paris-based International Vine and Wine Organisation.

The Federation of Spirits Distillers opposed the exclusion of wine, cider and beer, alleging that it would give the wrong message to young people, making them think that they were harmless.

In Palma, Joan Simone, speaking for the Balearic ministry of agriculture, said that they were “satisfied” that the bill had been withdrawn.


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