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Drought assistance must be maintained

Exceptional Circumstances must be maintained for the Murray Valley horticulture industries.

Murray Valley Winegrowers (MVW) has written to Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke to request that Exceptional Circumstances (EC) provisions must be extended beyond September this year.

The new Federal Agriculture Minister is meeting with his state counterparts in April and it’s understood that current EC arrangements will be reviewed at that meeting. Copies of the MVW letter have also been sent to state agriculture Ministers.

“It is absolutely vital that current EC arrangements, which are due to expire at the end of September, are extended for irrigators relying solely on the Murray Darling basin,” MVW CEO Mike Stone says.

“Drought conditions persist, with the major river catchments still not receiving sufficient rainfall to remove the threat of the 2008–09 season also being plagued by extremely low allocations for high-security, permanent plantings.”

In its letter to Tony Burke, MVW stressed that many growers have already lost their livelihoods while others were battling to remain afloat.

“If winegrape prices in 2009 are similar to those this year and water allocations again fall well short of entitlements, as water authorities are warning, growers will again be forced to buy supplementary supplies from the water market. The financial strain of having to do this adds to the case for EC assistance continuing.”

MVW also has suggested to the Minister for Agriculture that conditions for receiving exit grants should be more flexible.

“To qualify, the vineyard must have been sold, but that’s difficult in the current environment. If the water rights to a particular vineyard have been sold and the vines removed, MVW argues the grower has exited the industry and should qualify for the grant.”

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