If the first week of 2015 is anything to go by we are in for another year of challenge! Prolonged heat, the threat of heavy rains, indications of hastening maturity and no indication of price relief for the majority of producers are the topics on most minds.
A miracle solution would be an immediate increase of 20¢ per bottle of wine to the growers. If that were to happen, the relief would be immense, not just for growers but the regional economy would be boosted by roughly $80M. It would greatly ease the gap between despair and confidence. It would put a spring back into the step of the entire community. There’s no doubt, the $80M would be well and truly spent, many times over and over. The regional economy would benefit enormously to say nothing of the flow-on effects for the SA economy!
If any industry prophet had foretold, 10 years ago, that 2015 wine grape prices would plunge to be the meanest in almost four decades, there would not be much of a Riverland wine industry left. Thankfully there was no such prophet and the Riverland wine industry is still positioned to be able to make the next Great Escape! Back in 2005, as members were about to experience drought restrictions for the first time, there was (blind) confidence that the industry would pull through.
Hindsight now reveals how crucial it is to get policy settings right.
The “accelerated depreciation” policy of the mid 90s that ran rampant for almost 10 years has had an impact, not just in the Riverland but throughout the industry. The “competition” policies that have enabled major retailers to drive primary producers beyond the point of being sustainable are threatening regional economies. We hear suggestions from some, who should know better, that we should “withhold supply”. It won’t happen. Nor will the 20¢ miracle.
The management committees of Riverland Wine will meet next week to try to develop a position in relation to the policies that are stifling progress towards that extra 20¢ in the bottle. That would mean the return to growers from a bottle of wine would skyrocket to about 46¢! When we stand back as a community and take a minute or two to realise how much Primary Production means to regional Australia, it’s hard to imagine too many wine consumers would begrudge such a pittance.