Fragments of confidence returning

The shortage of ‘silver bullets’ at the recent breakfast meetings in Waikerie, Berri, Renmark and Loxton was noted. There was no shortage of information though with many expressing the view that the decision to provide a ‘take-away’ copy of the presentation to reflect on was much preferred to the more conventional slide show. Although some of the material is not pretty to look at, the graphs and charts enabled members to understand the relationship between the value of wine sold into export markets and the value of winegrapes.

Data sets, charts and graphs showing facts and trends over the past seventeen vintages highlighted the crucial need for all of industry to pay closer attention to the meaning of sustainability. Shining a light on the (Wine Australia) ‘price dispersion’ report that revealed almost 66K tonnes of Chardonnay were sourced from the region in 2016, within an astonishingly narrow $10 price band highlighted the acute challenges to grower and winemaker members alike. The knowledge of these realities is sharpening the focus around industry-wide ‘sustainability’ and slowly but surely more stakeholders are being drawn into strategic discussions about formulating coherent responses to global trade truths. Jim Caddy’s presentation about the multitude of factors impacting the price of Australian wines in key export destinations was revealing, with the majority expressing appreciation for the information despite the complexities.

Those who attended reported demand signals from near and far regarding 2017.  These continue to be positive indicators. The message to growers was “don’t jump in feet-first at the sniff of an offer”. Think carefully and ask what others are hearing.

There can be no relaxation though; on another key issue: It is imperative for Riverland Wine to continue to press the case for rebates on bulk and unbranded wines to be removed ASAP. The distortions that have accumulated in export markets, through lawful but inappropriate interpretations of the WET rebate rules have harmed this region more than any other. Even one more year of tax-payer subsidies on bulk and un-branded wines will significantly diminish returns to growers and continue to present Australian wines at well below the standard necessary for sustainability of the broader industry. Riverland Wine members debated these matters again at this week’s meeting of growers and winemakers and agreed to continue to work constructively with industry and government to accelerate the reform program for the broader benefit of Australian wine producers and sellers, especially in export markets. Things have moved slowly but steadily since the region first put pen to paper on the issue back in October 2013!

Soft copies of the breakfast presentations will be emailed next week, together with some explanatory hints to encourage further deliberation during the few months leading to the mid-December release of indicative prices. Hopefully, as the fragments of confidence return, we can look forward to some indicative prices well before the drop-dead date of December 15!

For those who were unable to make it, the offer remains, an extra evening meeting can be convened if there is sufficient demand. Email chris@riverlandwine.com.au with your request.

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