Growers and winemakers across bushfire-affected areas of New South Wales are starting to learn the potential fiscal damage caused by this summer’s bushfires, with one estimate placing the possible loss to grape crops alone at over $100 million.
The regions of Tumbarumba and the Hunter Valley are believed to be some of the worst-hit regions in the state, although Orange and other areas have also been struck by bushfire-related damage, which include widespread smoke taint.
Executive officer of the New South Wales Wine Industry Association (NSWWIA), Angus Barnes, said that the state could expect to take a $100 million hit to grape sales as regions impacted by the fires and smoke start their recovery.
Barnes added that significant testing to grape bunches is already underway state-wide to determine the extent of damage to producers and he expects the number of producers adversely impacted to rise in the coming weeks.
“In the Hunter, the effects of direct fire and smoke-related damages have been significant with estimates already coming in that 20%-50% of winegrape crops have been impacted,” he said.
“The Hunter Valley’s typical crush is about 6,000–7,000 tonnes, and the damages now mean that the region might lose anywhere between 1,500 and 3,000 tonnes from the overall state yield.
“My belief is we will lose more than $100 million in grape sales alone across the state.”
Barnes told Winetitles that immediate concerns for reduced crop yields aside, long-term recovery is a threefold process and one that will take time to allow the region to fully heal.
“For the state, the long term recovery process will take a lot of time, energy and cooperation between government bodies and wine producers,” he said.
“We need to make sure that vine health recovers so the state can continue to produce high quality wine fruit; the loss of a labour work force is something which the region’s growers need to re-acquire as many workers left the region during the fires and growers fear they may not wish to return; Thirdly, we need to bolster tourism to the region once again as it is crucial to our recovery.”
While wine regions in New South Wales take the first step to recovery, the full extent of damage from bushfires and smoke in South Australia, Victoria and the ACT are also being assessed.