Many Riverland growers will remember the days in the early noughties (2002 to 2005) when winegrape supply contracts became complex, complicated, confusing, confounding and cluttered with cross-references. The term ‘dispute resolution’ became part of relationships between growers and wineries that had previously concluded agreements with handshakes and the exchange of a bottle of wine or two.
Those days are long gone. Riverland and Murray Valley growers had no option but to acquaint themselves with competition law on behalf of members. Visitations to and from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) outreach officers were commonplace. Independent experts settled disputes each year and growers from these two regions and the Riverina initiated discussions to develop the voluntary Australian Wine Industry Code of Conduct.
Another dozen years have passed and the ACCC is again looking to winegrowers to learn about commercial relationships between themselves and winegrape buyers and whether or not there may be issues that warrant ACCC attention or intervention in 2018.
Officers from ACCC headquarters have consulted widely with industry leaders to prepare a survey and now invite all growers to respond. This will enable the commission to assess the quality of relationships, the state of play in different regions and the effect or impact of particular industry practices that may vary from one region to another.
Riverland Wine joins with the ACCC and strongly encourages all winegrape growers to have their say and complete the survey. The outcome of this enquiry will better inform peak industry bodies as they simultaneously prepare to review effectiveness of the Code of Conduct.