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Wine industry summit sinks expectations of struggling growers

The Australian government has ruled out providing funding to winegrape growers for vine pull schemes, reducing production or exiting the industry.

In opening remarks to the Wine Industry Summit in Melbourne last Friday, Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran effectively told growers and wineries not to look to government for further funds to overcome grape and wine over supply.

The summit was organised by Wine Grape Growers’ Australia (WGGA) in association with the Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

“Many growers will be disappointed that the summit didn’t result in some form of compensation to counter extraordinarily low grape prices and/or lack of success in even selling fruit,” said Murray Valley Winegrowers’ CEO Mike Stone.

However, the summit did reach agreement on a number of initiatives that will assist the Australian wine industry in the medium to long term. These include:

· Urgent investigation to acquire the information needed to assist with the development of industry management plans and preparation of a case for further government consideration · A mix of government and industry funding to support the Future Directions strategy that’s gathering and analysing wine market data from around the world, with the aim of increasing export sales · Acquiring more reliable information on wine stocks to provide accurate estimates of wine surpluses · A task force to examine the setting up of a National Vineyard Register to provide more accurate information on plantings, planting intentions and production trends · The government to examine the guidelines for growers obtaining benefits from the Farm Help scheme such as income support, advice, training & re-establishment grants · A Wine Industry Charter that recognises the strategic partnership between growers and winemakers and commits them to an industry Code of Conduct.

While the summit didn’t deliver the good news that many growers would have been hoping for, it did provide more information to assist growers with decision making.

“Finally, we have acknowledgment that the Australian wine industry is simply caught up in a difficult cycle that should end in two to three years,” says Mike Stone.

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