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WGGA urges growers and wineries to make amends

There has been an appeal to winemakers to use the industry’s planned Code of Conduct to make a fresh start on their relationships with growers. But the growers’ peak body has not let its own members off the hook, urging growers to have the strength to reject poor corporate behaviour.

Wine Grape Growers’ Australia (WGGA) executive director, Mark McKenzie, has made the earnest appeal to address the “serious culture issues” at the industry’s annual ‘What’s Going On’ conferences.

“It’s not just about a Code for wineries. It’s something growers, as players in the winegrape sector, need to own and promote as well because ultimately you are the people who can pressure the corporate sector to sign up to the Code and abide by it,” McKenzie said.

“You as growers are not going to continue producing fruit for people who are not going to give you some degree of certainty about whether you have a home for your fruit at a viable price level,” he said.

“Frankly, to this point, I don’t think the penny has dropped with some wine producers. They think they can continue to screw the price and growers are going to stay in business forever because they have always been there. Quite clearly that’s not gong to be the case.

“The challenge ahead is to drive winery acceptance of the fundamental need for viable growers.

“There is no use screwing people through the floor to the point where they can’t produce, so what we are talking about here in real terms is the re-establishment of long-term relationships.”

McKenzie said at worst, the industry had seen significant winery misinformation on demand-supply conditions, and at best misuse of supply and stocks information.

“We know now from work we have done with the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation and Australian Bureau of Statistics that the level of stocks reported and used by a signifi cant number of companies to screw down prices over the last two years was not correct.

“Those companies knew what their real stock position was and unless we can get back to an open and transparent relationship between the grower sector and the wine production sector we have a very rocky road ahead.

“We have also seen bullying tactics. At best it’s overpressure and at worst it’s black-booking of growers.

The full article can be found in the September/October issue of Australian Viticulture.

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