Riverina growers given the message

In what has been described as an extraordinary move the Riverina based Wine Grapes Marketing Board has written to all of its growers advising them to seriously consider whether it is worth remaining in the wine industry. After discussions with eight wineries, Board Chair Bruno Brombal has told the ABC the board has no confidence that growers’ returns will improve over the next two to three years. In his letter to growers Brombal has referred to the dominance of retailers, a weak domestic market and indications from the region’s wineries that recovery will take at least two to three years.

The Riverina is one of the three inland regions with plantings in the region of 20,000ha; not a lot different to the Riverland.

Riverland Wine Executive Officer Chris Byrne said, “We first flagged concerns almost 10 years ago when we convened the Riverland Rally at the Berri Oval in May of 2006. In August 2009 Riverland Wine supported the Winemakers Federation of Australia (WFA) when it launched the Wine Restructuring Action Agenda (WRAA). At that time the organisation urged growers who had a sense of getting older and poorer, to take advantage of the Exit Scheme”.

He added, “Riverland Wine has actively encouraged growers to examine business plans very carefully and think of themselves as ongoers or outgoers.” Roughly 300 growers have left the industry and as is the case with Riverina growers many more would follow if there was a market for inland vineyards.

Throughout the 10 year period Riverland Wine has worked with all industry bodies to become more competitive, to enable our growers and winemakers to become more competitive, to understand the markets where our wines are sold, to examine new business models and to be innovative well before the word innovation was popularised. The region needs winegrowers to continue producing wealth for the local economy but moreover the entire Australian wine industry needs this region and other inland regions to provide the critical mass that underpins the great Australian wine industry. Without this critical mass the industry will struggle to build and maintain competitive advantage in export markets.

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