To blame or not to blame?

During the current discussions about how the industry continues to face adverse times, it is often easy to revert to the behaviour of blame. Growers blame wine companies for failing to pay prices that are sustainable, wine companies blame growers for failings in fruit quality, and everyone blames supermarkets for the pressure exerted back upstream in the supply chain, and so on. This finger pointing fails to recognise the current lack of profitability as a global challenge that all wine growers and producers are trying to deal with, especially in the “popular premium” category that the Riverland is so good at producing.There is rarely a passing month without an announcement about wine companies shedding staff, closing facilities, or issuing write – downs. Clearly the hard times are not solely restricted to the growers’ community. But what to do about it?

By the time you are reading this article, Riverland Wine members will be meeting to plan further action to try to resurrect the industry. Following on from the development of the Strategic Plan, Riverland Wine, which includes grape growers and winemakers, firmly believes that the way forward lies not in blaming each other but in trying to find answers.While this is not easy, it is the challenge that we must deal with. The continued imbalance between supply and demand will continue to plague this region as long as low prices and international competition encourage wine companies to maximise production to better utilise their winery assets. This can only be done when wine grapes are bought at very low prices, which in turn forces growers to produce more fruit in order to remain viable. The nation then continues to produce large volumes of fruit and wine which are difficult to sell, which in turn prolongs and exacerbates the oversupply; and so the cycle continues. As a backdrop to all this, is the hotly discussed topic of the WET rebate, which many would argue acts as a disincentive to export growth. When the rebate is misdirected, it can have a depressive effect on wine and grape prices across the entire category.

What is needed is a way to break this cycle. These points are a gross simplification of the whole of industry issues that impact upon the region, but the regional body is being proactive, and directly taking up these issues on your behalf directly with national and state industry bodies. The most likely solutions are to be found in being proactive and inclusive, rather than reactive and resorting to blaming each other. Theodore Roosevelt put it rather well in a speech at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910. The following is an excerpt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Read the speech

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