Failing to plan is planning to fail

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Over 900 Riverland families have invested into irrigated agriculture by owning and operating winegrape vineyards. Significant funds have been invested into the construction and operation of large wineries.

Investment in vineyards is a long-term decision with the life span of a vineyard exceeding 50 years. What will the Riverland wine industry look like in 10 – 20 years as vineyards need to be redeveloped? Will Riverland winegrape growers invest the $50,000 per hectare to replace aging and obsolete patches of winegrapes with more vines? 

Future opportunities, threats and trends within the wine sector will occur in a complicated and rapid manner. The consequences of climate change make long-term investment risky.  Business as usual without long-term planning is unlikely to deliver sustainable drought resilient solutions placing the viability of the entire Riverland community at risk.

A project submission for funding to the Australian Governments Future Drought Fund: Natural Resource Management Drought Resilience Program was made by Riverland Wine.  The project aims help members to improve drought literacy, gain knowledge to enhance decision making capacity and develop sustainable systems and approaches to long- term business planning.

Some of the potential project outcomes are:

  1. Understanding current dynamic drivers of change and ‘whole-of-system’ natural resource management thinking including the linkages between ecosystems, environmental and economic aspects of drought resilience;
  2. Addressing existing pain points such as water security, rising input prices, changing climate patterns (eg more extreme hot days); and
  3. Navigating existing complexities to develop and implement appropriate drought resilient solutions.

The need to work with local growers to develop plans for the future was identified by Mick Keelty (2020) … “Water literacy has changed. A farmer needs to not only farm, but simultaneously be an economist, trader, and weatherperson. There is limited time to be able to do all of these things, resulting in some family farms falling behind”.

If successful, the project will provide Riverland Wine members the opportunity to achieve:

  1. Improved capacity to transform, reorganise and adapt to changing conditions (climate change, low inflows, drought, temperature).
  2. Agricultural risks are pro-actively and locally managed to ensure farming is sustainable.

Why is this project important?

The Riverland is the largest wine producing region in Australia. In 2019/20, over 70% of South Australia’s and 30% of Australia’s annual crush were produced in the Riverland.

The Riverland wine industry provides an important source of income, employment, and production that generates the wealth that underpins the local community.  Investing to safeguard an industry worth over $300M (farmgate) from future drought is economically justifiable.

Previous droughts have resulted in significant public expenditure in farm assistance packages, adjustment support, regional economic disruption, capital loss and reductions to regional community well-being. Structural adjustments owing to the challenges ahead are inevitable but, planning to gain more control of change is wiser than ‘planning to fail’.

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