Riverland Wine reaches out to government for urgent assistance

Feedback and suggestions presented by winegrape growers at last week’s town meeting at Barmera have been consolidated and a letter ’emphasising the need for urgent assistance’ sent to government.

Riverland Wine says a letter summarising member feedback and suggestions has been sent to state and federal governments for their urgent attention following last week’s town meeting which heard winegrape growers voice their struggles to remain financially viable.

More than 175 Riverland growers and industry and government representatives attended the forum held last Wednesday at Barmera. Amidst calls for ‘immediate crisis support’ from governments, desperate growers described how they were unable to pay bills, with some looking to exit the industry altogether.

The meeting had been convened to discuss the future of the local industry and to look at ways to ensure it can “overcome low prices, an over-supply and poor profitability”, with the aim of putting forward solutions to all three levels of government “with industry consensus”.

In an industry update issued to members, Riverland Wine executive officer Lyndall Rowe said that following on from the meeting, grower feedback had been “consolidated”.

“A letter summarising your feedback and suggestions has been sent to the South Australian Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, the South Australian Premier and the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

“The letter has emphasised the need for urgent assistance from government including reduced fees and charges from government,” Rowe said.

A number of specific suggestions for ‘financial support initiatives’ are included in the letter, such as bill relief and funding for growers to exit the industry, or to pick-to-ground or pause vineyards for 1-2 vintages, or to remove unviable vineyards. There is also a call for avenues to be opened up for growers to access affordable finance or loans, for water buy-backs and for financial support for “grower transition to different crops – either different varietals or non-grape crop[s]”.

Among other suggestions include an inquiry into grape prices with it noted that ‘growers have been disadvantaged/taken advantage of for too long’. One other suggestion is for another meeting, “but with government decision-makers in the room (State and Federal), to hear our stories, to hear our requests, and to work with us to ensure the future of our region and its people and businesses”.

In her update Rowe told members that Riverland Wine would keep them updated on the progress of discussions.


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