Commercial winemakers group seeks formal recognition

Bill Moularadellis, Australian Commercial Wine Producers chair

By Meg Riley

Australian Commercial Wine Producers (ACWP) — a group formed in 2021 to represent Australia’s three largest winegrowing regions — is seeking “equitable status” with Australian Grape & Wine (AGW), claiming that AGW has not adequately represented the interests of Australian commercial producers.

Representing the Riverina in New South Wales, Victoria’s Sunraysia and the Riverland in South Australia, ACWP announced today (13 November) that it has written to the Federal Minister for Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Murray Watt, seeking to be formally recognised as a declared representative body as provided for by the Wine Australia Act (2013).

According to ACWP chair Bill Moularadellis, members of the ACWP contribute over 60% of Australia’s wine production, and a similar proportion of the mandatory wine grapes levy.

“We seek equitable status with Australian Grape and Wine, whose members contribute less than 25% of the industry’s total production and levy revenue,” said Moularadellis.

“AGW no longer has the industry mandate to continue to exclusively represent the interests of all Australian producers and it certainly does not have the moral authority to convene the R&D and Marketing Advisory Committees which advise Wine Australia’s strategic priorities.”

“It is fair and just that members of ACWP have at least an equal formal voice in setting the directions and priorities of the industry especially at this time when the industry is facing its worst crisis in more than a generation.”

Moularadellis added that discussions pertaining to more equitable representation within the AGW had proven “disappointing”, and that it would be difficult for the Minister not to accept ACWP’s moral case for equitable representation based on the information presented.

In response to ACWP’s claims, Lee McLean, chief executive, Australian Grape & Wine expressed disappointment, telling Winetitles Media that there were “more serious issues” to be addressed within the industry.

“Australian Grape & Wine notes the media release issued by Australian Commercial Wine Producers (ACWP) this morning. It is disappointing that ACWP has chosen to raise these issues at a time when there are more serious and fundamental issues that need addressing in our sector,” said McLean.

“While there are significant question marks relating to the figures put forward by ACWP, we will not engage in a public debate on this issue. Rather than focusing on industry politics, Australian Grape & Wine is working to address the issues that matter to our industry.

“We’ve been focused on, amongst many other things: working with Government to find a pathway to resolving trade impediments with China; seeking alternatives to costly and ineffective Container Deposit Scheme proposals; protecting Australian producers’ rights to use the grape variety name Prosecco; addressing the concerns of grape growers in the current oversupply situation; and countering anti-alcohol group claims that Australian winemakers should apply additional health warning labels on their products.”

Explaining the timing of this fight for recognition, Moularadellis said that the move was prompted by “a lack of any action or cogent policy response by AGW to the worst industry crisis in more than a generation.”

Moularadellis claimed the AGW had “failed a very simple test.”

“AGW has the sole responsibility for convening the R&D and marketing committees that provide the direction to Wine Australia in the application of our valuable levies. These committees have failed over a very long period of time to provide accountability of outcomes and value for all levy payers.”

“With levy total contributions declining due to lower industry production and exports, it is unlikely that any industry participant of any size or scale, has been satisfied enough with the value they have received from their levy contributions that they would agree to pay more.”

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