“How do we get through?” Petition cries for help to save Riverland wine

Steven Dimas (left) with his sons Marcus (top left) and Sam (top right), and father Mark at the family’s first vineyard in Renmark North. Image supplied

By Meg Riley

A petition titled Save Riverland Wine is calling on government for financial help, with a suggested amount of $300 per tonne to enable local growers to harvest their Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon crops onto the ground and lessen further financial pressures.

Created by Riverland local Amanda Dimas, the petition has garnered over 400 signatures since its inception on Sunday.

Dimas and her husband Steven own a vineyard in Renmark North, and understand first-hand the burden on the region. Steven is a third-generation vineyard owner and operator, with his grandfather purchasing the first vineyard in the early 1960s.

Dimas told Daily Wine News that her work as a hairdresser has also given her insight into the broader Riverland community and how the local industry is suffering.

“The impact this is having on our growers is devastating. We have growers struggling to pay bills around town to put food on their tables or keep a roof over their family’s heads.

“They are hard times for our whole industry, but I believe we can work together, with some financial support from our government, and be on the other side in a much better long-term situation.”

“Along with our fellow vineyard owners, I knew I had something to say and how better to say our message, than together with a petition.

Dimas said she hopes the petition will help secure some financial support for the community.

“The oversupply of red grapes has been a problem for our wineries.

“The government has done a wonderful job promoting tourism to visit our wineries, but the winery can’t provide our beautiful Riverland wine without our growers.

“I suggested a price of $300 per tonne to harvest our red grapes onto the ground, allowing us to afford to pay our harvest bills and other running costs, not by any means make a profit, but to help us get through this year and potentially next.

“Paired with a redevelopment package, to change some red plantings to white varieties and somewhat balance the Riverland’s grape supply.”


Harvest at the Dimas’s vineyard in Renmark North. Image supplied


The Dimas family is having to make hard decisions every day.

“We are haemorrhaging money to keep our business alive. It is hard and at times heartbreaking. We are keeping positive and looking at how we can better our future and speaking with our wineries to try to make the best decisions we can.”

The family is not alone in their battle, with Dimas saying the entire community is under immense strain.

“I’ve had our fellow growers cry as they describe in desperation their situation. It devastating to hear them ask for advice and not know what to say to them, ‘How do we get through?’ We financially can’t help them, we ourselves are in the same situation.”

“We have two sons and they love being on the vineyard with us. Steven and I want to leave a legacy behind for our sons,” explained Dimas.

Within the first 48 hours of the petition, the cause had already received over 300 signatures. At the time of writing, that number now sits at 422.

Dimas said the community response had been “amazing”.

“Signatures have ranged from small growers to big growers to other businesses that feel the pinch when our growers struggle and the wider community.

“It’s fantastic to see each new signature come through, it makes me believe in our community and the power we have together, that we can make a difference and be heard.”

The Riverland Winegrape Growers Association will hold a town meeting at 5pm this afternoon, to address the “short and long-term challenges” of the Riverland wine industry.

“The [South Australian] Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Clare Scriven has tasked us to urgently bring to her a concise list of grower requests for short-term help, sourced from as wide a cross section of Riverland growers as possible. This is a great opportunity to present some options to the SA Government,” said Riverland Wine in an industry update about the meeting.

The petition will be circulated at the meeting, which will be held at the Barmera Club. Dimas said she hopes the meeting will be a space for productive discussion.

“I hope to see growers come forward with constructive ideas. I feel there is a lot of hurt and pain in our growers and I believe you will see a level of frustration and desperation. I really want everyone to come to the meeting with a clear message and put their ideas forward.”

If growers have clarity of pricing ahead of time they can respond accordingly, Dimas said, which would help them to weigh up the best path forward financially.

“We need transparency. I believe in modern day farming, we should have certainty, on the ability to home our produce and at what price, by the beginning of the season, May-June. This allows the growers to then decide at pruning time what to do.

“I’ve heard a lot of good ideas be put forward so I believe if we are heard this could be of major benefit to growers and wineries alike.”


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