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Federal Budget’s lack of assistance for wine industry a “deliberate failure”

The Australian House of Representatives at the Australian Parliament, Canberra, Australia

Australian Grape & Wine (AGW) has condemned the lack of assistance for grapegrowers and winemakers in the Albanese Government’s Budget which was released last night, calling it a “missed opportunity” that the group says ignores the industry’s pleas for urgent support.

“This Budget provides no relief for the serious challenges facing growers and winemakers in regional communities across much of Australia,” stated AGW CEO Lee McLean. “The industry’s struggles are not the result of normal market fluctuations, but stem from factors outside the industry’s control, including the loss of our largest export market in 2020.”

McLean criticised the omission of the industry’s “modest” pre-Budget submission requests, which included a $30 million sustainability package, $36 million for export assistance, and $20 million for domestic wine tourism.

“We made it crystal clear – many in regional wine communities across Australia are on their knees and need urgent government action to stop a bad situation from becoming a catastrophe,” said McLean. “However, instead of support, all we got was a new tax in the form of the deeply flawed Biosecurity Protection Levy.”

“While China’s decision to lift import duties is positive, it will simply not resolve the issues facing growers and winemakers” McLean stated. “The economic shock experienced by our industry has led to unsustainable prices for grapes, an oversupply of wine, and increasing economic disadvantage in regional Australia.”

“It’s a damning indictment of just how dire the situation is when the refund on an empty wine bottle is worth more than what many of our growers receive for the grapes that fill it,” said McLean.

“It’s disappointing that despite the sector’s $45.5 billion economic contribution, the government has turned a blind eye to our pleas for assistance,” said McLean.  “We call on them to reconsider this missed opportunity.”

 

Failure to address industry needs

The New South Wales Wine Industry Association (NSW Wine) also expressed its “deep disappointment” at the Budget, stating that the Australian Government has “once again failed” to address the pressing needs of the wine industry.

“The Federal Government Budget offers no relief for the serious challenges faced by wine businesses in regional communities, particularly growers in warm inland wine regions like the Riverina in NSW,” said the association in a release to media this morning.

“The Federal Government’s failure to provide targeted support is extremely disappointing, especially considering the multi-billion-dollar surpluses and the fact that the wine industry employs more than 160,000 people nationwide.”

“Wine businesses are crucial to regional communities, driving regional tourism and employment, with interests spanning from the farm to offshore markets. In NSW alone, the wine industry employs 53,000 people directly and indirectly, generating $14 billion annually in economic activity for the State though agriculture, manufacturing, wholesale, retail, export and tourism activities.”

“NSW Wine calls on the Albanese-led Federal Labor government to reconsider its decision on one hand to invest billions into the “Future Made in Australia” program while on the other hand failing to seize the opportunity to support one of the highest and oldest value-adding agricultural and regional manufacturing sectors in the country – the Australian wine industry.”

Australian Grape & Wine and NSW Wine said they remain committed to advocating for growers, winemakers and regional communities.

“We will not let this go,” said McLean. “This deliberate failure to help families in regional Australia jeopardises the viability of entire communities, and without help it is only going to get worse.”

 

“Twisting the knife”

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) accused the Federal Government of “twisting the knife” with the release of yesterday’s Budget, lamenting that the largest allocation of funding was committed to ending the live export trade.

NFF President David Jochinke said while at a glance it would appear the biggest spending spree for agriculture was for the Future Drought Fund, only $42.2 million is new money.

“Peel back the surface and the disappointment appears. The biggest spend in ‘agriculture’ is not even for farmers, it’s appeasing the extreme activists and to generate inner city votes at the next election.”

The NFF said it will await more detail on the $63.8 million over a decade to support initial emission reduction efforts in the agriculture and land sectors as part of Australia’s transition to net zero by 2050.

“This announcement should prove a solid down payment on investing in agriculture’s approach to addressing climate change,” said Jochinke. “We look forward to understanding the detail.”

The NFF added that it is looking forward to continuing to engaging with Government to co-design appropriate measures, beginning at next week’s Sustainable Agriculture Summit.

“We welcome funding for the Nature Positive Plan, and improving the Australian Carbon Credit Unit Scheme we will continue to unpack these and what they mean for agriculture over the coming days.”

The NFF also noted and welcomed additional announcements relevant to the farm sector, including:

  • Extension of the $20,000 instant asset write-off until 30 June 2025.
  • $519.1 million across 4 years for the Future Drought Fund only includes $42.2 million in new money.
  • An additional extra $13.9 million for the Department to respond quickly to drought events and ensure drought is always high on the policy agenda.
  • $2 million boost to help Australian agricultural exporters rebuild trade with China and diversify into other markets, as well as a $14.4 million commitment to expand the Australia-India Business Exchange to promote Australia’s trade and investment with India and across South Asia.
  • $400,000 across three years for Farmsafe Australia to extend the National Farm Safety Week campaign.
  • $1.5 million to improve accurate and clear labelling of plant-based alternative protein products.

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