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Growers turning to Internet to sell fruit
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As growers face the situation of what to do with their excess and uncontracted grapes this season many will be looking outside the traditional lines of market and turning to the Internet.
Stephen Blacketer, managing director of Morton Blacketer who created VineAccess in 1996, an online portal that markets and sells grapes via the VineAccess Spot Market, saw a significant gap in the wine industry market place and recognised the opportunity to revolutionise the industry.
When Stephen began his search for VineAccess he found that the challenges the wine industry were facing was finding an easy and cost-effective exchange of information for both the buyers and growers. VineAccess is a unique tool that enables growers and wineries to share information in order to facilitate harvest and vintage scheduling activities.
The VineAccess Spot Market works by publishing uncontracted and excess grapes available for sale on the Internet. It provides a marketing service for growers wanting to sell their grapes and has a search option for buyers to find the specific grapes that they require.
VineAccess also includes the growers’ spray diaries that allows the buyer to access detailed information about the fruit, from what chemicals had been used and how often, to maturity test data, crop forecasting and harvest schedules.
Stephen said VineAccess Spot Market was successful because it improved information flow between buyers and growers due to the fact that growers can accurately, efficiently and economically update their produce on a regular basis.
“All business alliances are relationship-driven – no matter what industry you’re operating within – and effective communication and information provision forms a significant part of building rapport with your contacts,” Stephen said.
Another reason why VineAccess is so successful is because growers were under increasing demand from the buyers to supply more updated information about the grapes.
“Ensuring buyers are well informed about your product and managing information can be time consuming. However, with the ability to provide up-to-date details about grapes for sale on the Internet, growers control the flow of information and place themselves in a position to pro-actively market their produce,” Ron Day, training coordinator for VineAccess, said.
This season Morton Blacketer has recorded a 68% increase in registrations in VineAccess, compared to that of the 2005 vintage.
“This increase is represented by 59% more growers, plus additional registrations of wineries, spot buyers and contract service providers, such as crushers, harvesters and carriers,” Stephen said.
According to a report on this season’s vintage, growers listed on VineAccess are predominantly located in the Riverland, Murray Darling, McLaren Vale, the Clare Valley, the Barossa, Margaret River, Langhorne Creek and the Adelaide Hills.
The report also stated that in February 2006, 24% of the main varieties of grapes listed on VineAccess were that of Shiraz with 5,486 tonnes. 18% of the grapes were Chardonnay, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% were Merlot.
There has also been a 4% increase in the amount of fruit being listed compared to this time last year. This vintage there was a total of 22,869 tonnes being listed, with more than 10,000 of that from Riverland, Sunraysia and Riverina.
Morton Blacketer held training sessions in January 2006 for VineAccess Spot Market and free information sessions to grape sellers and buyers in Adelaide, Renmark, Mildura and Griffith. The training sessions drew participants predominantly from the Adelaide Hills, the Barossa and Clare.
“All growers have been affected by the falling prices that have resulted from oversupply,” Stephen said. “For example, while a number of growers who took part in the training sessions said they had maintained their contracts, the contracts’ total tonnage requirement had been reduced.”
With many growers’ fruit contracts being cancelled or reduced and growers turning to VineAccess Spot Market as an additional marketing channel, it seems that this revolutionised marketing technique is a must-have wine industry tool for the future.