Riverland growers call for help to make tough water decisions following hailstorm

Riverland growers are calling for grape prices to be released earlier to help them decide whether to sell off valuable water in the wake of this week’s hailstorm, according to an article published by The Advertiser yesterday (6 November 2019).

Gurpinder Sidhu said he will have to look for a second income.

Most of the winegrape crop on his family’s Glossop property was destroyed in Monday’s freak hailstorm, which ravaged the Riverland.

He said he will now look into another business venture so the family’s income is less vulnerable in future years.

“Personally, I need to recover from this and once we’re out of it I’ll start thinking about a second option,” Sidhu said.

“I’ll keep farming, because that’s in my blood, but I’ll definitely have a second business other than farming.”

Early estimates of Monday’s hail storm suggest its economic impact could go north of $100 million.

Riverland growers are still counting the costs, with a detailed estimate of expected in coming weeks.

Meanwhile, irrigation groups believe an earlier release of grape price estimates would help Riverland growers make tough decisions about whether to sell their water to stay afloat.

Growers hit by the storm are paying almost $1000/ML for water and are calling for wineries to give early advice on what prices they’ll receive during a March harvest.

Riverland Wine executive chair Chris Byrne said wineries released estimates in December, but bringing this forward would provide growers with more certainty.

“It’s difficult to decide whether to continue growing a crop that might have been affected or to mothball their grapes for the year and lease the water out,” Byrne said.

“At today’s prices of $950/ML they can be very much assured of a reasonably good return per hectare.

“But without knowing their wine grape prices it’s very difficult to make that calculation as to whether they’re better off.”

Wineries’ price estimates are calculated based on a range of factors including demand.

CCW Co-operative Limited represents more than 500 Riverland growers, and its chairman Ashley Chabrel said his group was advocating for an earlier price release.

Chabrel said this was particularly important in the wake of Monday’s storm.

During the Millennium drought, growers received word on pricing around October which allowed them to decide not to water their blocks if it wasn’t commercially viable.