Riverland Wine (RLW) convened four breakfast meetings across the region last week concluding with the Loxton meeting on Friday morning. Members were invited to respond to a number of questions during the meetings ranging from their views about the 2014 vintage, to whether or not they think the strategic plan for the region’s industry is heading in the right direction.
After a vintage of many challenges, opening with uneven flowering and fruit set, wind, wind and more wind, frost, hail, fruit fly quarantine zones, bush fires, powdery mildew and shock grape prices in mid-December, growers were invited to score the vintage on a scale of 1 to 10. Ignoring prices and assessing the vintage in terms of yield and quality outcomes, there was strong positive sentiment with the majority of growers rating the outcomes at 6 or higher. Without doubt the industry’s low grape prices continue to be the main challenge for growers. Riverland wine executive officer Chris Byrne said, “Prices received for grapes this year continue to be unsustainable no matter which way we measure them and unfortunately, because the grape and wine industry is such a significant wealth generator for the Riverland, the ramifications will be felt throughout the region. The immediate burden falls most heavily on the grower community but manifests in many ways. There will be many less millions of dollars to be circulated throughout the economy by winegrape growers this year”.
Byrne added, “The organisation is concentrating on finalising the strategic plan with a primary focus on improving profitability and sustainability and becoming more competitive wherever there’s scope to improve what we do”. RLW is maintaining the Grassroots R&D and Extension program, building relationships with wineries and government and supporting Wine Australia in growing the market for Australian Wines. Growers have had the opportunity to have input to the formulation of the plan over recent months and feedback from growers has been very positive. A more comprehensive breakdown of the outcomes of these meetings will be included with next week’s column.