There have been some positive responses to the communiqué released prior to Christmas encouraging regional industry groups to consider membership of Australian Vignerons. While this is encouraging, there is some concern that many were unaware of the plight of AV, despite the regular updates via E-alert and the bi-monthly article in the Grapegrower and Winemaker magazine.
Rather than being a sign that people “don’t care” about the work that this body does on their behalf; it is more likely to be a sign that everyone in the industry, regardless of whether they are a grower or maker of wine, are all under the pump at present. There is a clear trend of less people trying to achieve more in order to make ends meet. The traditional forms of communication, via email, magazine and public media releases get only the attention that so few busy people can dedicate. More modern forms of communication such as social media are not widely used by the bulk of the grower populace in particular.
At present the future of Australian Vignerons hangs in the balance, while the battle continues to remain strong, relevant and effective enough to continue to service the willing and able members in need of the important functions that it fulfills. There is, however, a real problem with the lack of engagement that many in the industry have in relation to their representative bodies that are working so hard on their behalf. The success of advocacy bodies like Australian Vignerons is dependent on the quality and quantity of input and engagement from members.
Harvest and Rain
It has been a very eventful season across many growing regions. Following prolonged rain and a long, wet winter, some vines were slow to burst, and there appears to be widespread agreement that the season is running later than recent years; many suggesting that harvest will be 3 – 4 weeks later.
The recent tropical weather is creating real concerns about management of disease, and earlier concerns about down mildew are now starting to transfer into concern about late seasons downy mildew and possibly botrytis control. This type of weather leads to sleepless nights for growers, winemakers and technical staff alike, and the saying that “the best fertilizer is the grower’s feet” goes a long way. There are high hopes that the prolonged ripening period will lead to great quality wine and further market success, but there may need to be some special vigilance to get that crop over the line.
Contract and Price Concerns
Some of the regions that have experienced poor process are starting to see a recovery in the value of wine and therefore the value of wine grapes, but it is a mixed bag. It is disappointing to hear misgivings between growers and wine companies about price offers for the current vintage. In some cases the widespread recovery of wine and fruit value is not being passed on. Unless those who make wine and grow the contributing fruit in the vineyards of this nation can share in the improved conditions, they will be unable to continue to improve the fruit and wine on offer to our valued markets. Worse still, some will not be sustainable.
Growers are strongly urged not to agree to sell unless they have a written contract, and that contract contains a clearly specified price for the fruit being purchased. In some cases the agreed purchase price for fruit depends largely on an agreed “quality” grade for the fruit, and this perception of quality is often not well specified. Some growers are reporting that the agreed value that is “suggested” for their fruit is markedly different from the price paid after vintage.
This is the reason that WGGA has had a policy supporting objective measures of wine grape characteristics; or more broadly, that there is a well understood process where the value of the fruit is understood and transparently determined before harvest. This clearly remains a problem issue for many growers in many regions. It is also a potential opportunity for winemakers to better link the inherent characteristics of fruit and the resulting wine, and therefore has potential to provide more accurate market signals between makers and growers of wine. There are many winemakers and growers that are happy with the relationship, and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. There are many examples of commercial relationships that could do with improvement, however.
Regional Export Assistance Package
This is the name given to the investment of the partial savings from the WET rebate reforms. While at early stages now, we can reveal that Australian Vignerons will be working with WFA to make sure that all state and regional organisations have the opportunity to have their say in how this money will be best invested. Numerous submissions have been lodged from a large number of interested parties across the country. Assistant Minister Ruston is fully supportive of the wine industry being in control of its destiny and having carriage of this issue.
Minister Ruston has made clear the role that Australian Vignerons have played in conjunction with the Winemakers’ Federation in regard to the progression of the WET rebate reform. The increasing payouts to an increasing number of entities and the growing evidence of a large number of entities bringing in business structures in order to access the rebate had not escaped the notice of government and the ATO. There was no chance of the scheme continuing unchanged, and it was important that the peak advocacy bodies addressed the issue, and took part in the conversation with the government to direct reforms to options that the wine industry could live with, and that were also responsible to the Australian taxpayer.
It has also been made clear by Assistant Minister Ruston that this package represents a “once in a generation” opportunity, and that this opportunity should not be regarded as “situation normal”, and that AV and WFA will be expected to ratify the business plan on behalf of the industry.
This represents a significant responsibility for both Australian Vignerons and for WFA. The boards and staff of both organisations are very mindful that the best efforts must be directed to making sure that the best “bang for buck” eventuates that will satisfy the combined needs of boosting demand for wine, boosting profitability of the industry as a whole, and making sure that the resulting investment is effective and accountable from the perspective of a public investment.
Recent developments with biosecurity have stressed the importance of having an industry representative body like Australian Vignerons to ensure that the voice of those who own vineyards is heard, while the expert bodies at state and national agencies address the ongoing challenges in this field.
Most growers would be comfortably unaware of the number of biosecurity issues that are raised under the notifications of the Consultative Committee of Emergency Plant Pests. Thankfully, most of these are of minor importance.
Other work such as the project to revisit the Phylloxera exclusion protocols, the establishment of the collaborative arrangement of industry bodies to deal with biosecurity issues, and the work to re-establish the national vine biosecurity committee continue, and we hope to be able to report some progress there soon.
Updated Protocol and Vintage Biosecurity Checklist
Updated Protocol – Footwear and Small Hand Tool Disinfestation
Vinehealth Australia recently announced an update of the ‘Footwear and small hand tool disinfestation’ protocol post the completion of peer-reviewed research by Dr Kevin Powell (Agriculture Victoria – Rutherglen). This research has improved our understanding of how individual endemic phylloxera strains react to the traditional footbath disinfectant, sodium hypochlorite. Footwear and small hand tools must now be immersed for a minimum of 60 seconds in a 2% sodium hypochlorite solution, with no rinsing after immersion, to ensure disinfestation. A ‘clean in, clean out’ policy is recommended for footwear and small hand tools. These must be cleaned of all soil and plant material prior to coming onto a property, disinfested prior to entering vineyard rows, and then cleaned and disinfested again before leaving a property. To view protocol click here
Vintage Biosecurity Checklist
Vinehealth Australia has released a vintage biosecurity checklist (attached), outlining a range of best practice actions growers can take to prevent the spread of phylloxera and other pests and diseases on their own properties, thereby helping to keep the wine industry safe. Vintage Biosecurity Checklist
Latest Developments on the WET Rebate Reforms and Export and Regional Wine Support Package
A letter from Australian Vignerons and Winemakers Federation of Australia was sent to all regional and state bodies earlier this week to advise the latest developments on WET rebate reforms and Export and Regional Wine Support Package.
The Future Leaders program is the wine community’s peak personal and professional leadership program. It is designed for early to mid-career individuals who work in any section across the wine sector. The one thing that each Future Leader will have in common is that they are ready to step up and take our sector to the next level.
Program participants will hear from some of Australia’s best speakers on topics such as culture, governance, and leadership. They will explore new avenues in business, innovation and governance and connect with people from across the Australian grape and wine community, including the Future Leaders Alumni.
In an effort to promote the benefits of a strong plant biosecurity system, Plant Health Australia is running the Bountiful Harvest photo competition, with two vouchers for the RM Williams store as prizes.
The challenge is to capture some aspect of plant production – the crops that produce food and fibre – anywhere in Australia, in a digital image.