The Riverland growers and their supporters who travelled to Adelaide last week to protest about this year’s low prices have legitimate concerns and a right to protest. There comes a time however, when all concerned must answer the question: What can we hope to achieve with this sort of approach to Government?
The prices being faced by most growers this year are unsustainable. There is no argument about that. The Riverland Winegrape Growers Association met on 20 December to discuss the best ways to deal with this latest challenge, the result of the shock indicative prices released by a number of wineries in mid-December. Subsequent to that, 240 growers attended breakfast meetings in Waikerie, Barmera, Renmark and Loxton to provide feedback to the Association. All members who attended those meetings agreed that we must keep the lines of communication open to wineries and to government. It has taken years to develop a level of confidence between growers and winemakers that will enable us to work together and with State and Federal governments to deal with the issues that confront all of our industry. When comparing returns per hectare for growers in this region with growers from other regions it is clear; growers in all regions are doing it tough. We must all work to find better ways. We need game changing improvements not just incremental improvements. To achieve these outcomes we must be united as an entire industry with confidence in government and vice versa.
When we look back over the past 5 to 10 years we must acknowledge Australian taxpayers have provided many millions of dollars of support for our members. Many have been the beneficiaries of interest rate subsidies, infrastructure grants, exit grants and family support programs. As an outcome of the negotiations around the Murray Darling Basin plan the region’s grower community presently has the offer of $240 million of taxpayer funded improvements to put towards more sustainable business plans and enterprises. None of this would have been achieved without consistent, methodical dialogue with State and Federal government representatives and squadrons of bureaucrats. At times this can seem to be a demoralising process but when looking back and evaluating the support that the region has received and is continuing to receive, it all seems worthwhile.
So yes, times are once again very tough and it is always tempting to let off steam and blame others. But there comes a time when we must look around and see what else is happening in the industry and around the globe. It’s important to observe how government is responding to other appeals for support from other industries. All of us must continually seek to find the best ways of representing the interests of the majority of our members. Riverland Wine is doing this largely through communicating via the weekly emails and newspaper columns. Members are frequently invited to have their say. If you want to comment about anything, ring the Association on 8584 6399 or email even better, put it in writing to admin@Riverlandwine.com.au