It’s an ill wind…

‘It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good’; an old and often misunderstood proverb. Say it slowly and it makes sense… one person’s misfortune most often benefits another; like when storm damage creates work opportunities.

 

The ill wind has been howling since about July. It blew away the winter rains and heralded an el-niño, a climatic condition that didn’t mean much until the recent drought. Then it blew water prices straight through the roof, just as irrigators were learning about how inadvisable, indeed wasteful it is, to own too much ‘permanent’ water. In December, like a chorus of mournful minstrels, the wind they call Mariah, blew in the grape-prices messengers. ‘Ya dream’n’ they muttered, when the odd lone voice cried out for more. Hopes of ‘A better year this year’ were hung out to drip-dry. Then the much anticipated easterly, that promised to deliver the WET reforms from Canberra, blew itself out before it arrived, without so much as a whisper about how much longer distortions will be left to swirl; wreaking havoc. And the relentless droning of the mental health wind provoked and prodded more into dark places.

Empty promises and reassurances of ‘reward for effort’ shake rattle and roll and another vintage churns with no explanations.

The region depends on primary production for jobs, exports and community wealth. The annual re- investments by growers and farmers straight into local businesses in the form of farm equipment, chemicals, infrastructure, innovation, irrigation, education, debt-servicing, research and development is phenomenal. Just last year, an ordinary year by any financial measure, winegrowers recycled more than $100M of cash through the Riverland population of 35,000. Imagine the region without these funds. Theirs’ is the wind beneath the wings of the region…a good wind!

But, getting back to the proverb; it begs the questions: ‘so who is the ill wind favouring…who are the beneficiaries?’ Profitability and sustainability have gone AWOL. Growers are searching for them. Wineries are searching. Everyone is desperately searching; but too often, in opposite directions. Perhaps it’s time to tune in to what’s happening with the peak industry bodies?

Yep, it’s time to tune in and listen and look, in one direction at a time. Open up and examine the fundamentals. Profitability and sustainability emerge when all the links in the chain are strong. The opposite is also true. Profitability and sustainability fall apart for everyone, when even one link is weak. The others all lose focus. Concentration evaporates. The competition moves in.

In August and December last year wine industry leaders of all persuasions did come together from all around the country, to focus the search in one direction. There’s no argument they agreed; disunity between industry organisations is a factor in the downturn of profitability and sustainability. The rusty old weather vane is beginning to turn in one direction. Growers, winemakers, bureaucrats and politicians from Ministers Joyce and Ruston down, are all urging these industry leaders to sit around fewer tables. Find ways to listen to those who have so much to give in the way of livelihoods, skills, knowledge, passion, and commitment to jobs, exports and community wealth.

The next few months are crucial. The ill wind is moaning. It’s not about to ease off into a fairy-godmother of a breeze just yet. It’s urging Riverland Wine members who want to be included to listen-up; to speak-up, to be involved. Stay tuned. Become a beneficiary!

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