In this edition….

Industry News

WFA Life Members
Three new life members of the wine industry were announced on Monday 27th February.  There were James Halliday, Chris Hancock and Denis Horgan.  While one might be forgiven for thinking that WFA is handing out life memberships in alphabetical order (does anyone have a surname starting with “I”??) clearly all have made a valuable and long commitment to the industry that we love.  For more information click hereFuture Leaders – Last hours to apply!!!!
The deadline to apply to the Future Leaders course is rapidly approaching, with applications closing on the 9th of March.  The course has changed from previous iterations, so if you are interested in gaining leadership skills, but felt in the past that the way the future leaders course was not your cup of tea, then this is worth a second look.  Find out more hereVinehealth Australia
Congratulations to Vinehealth Australia on receiving a 2017 Australian Biosecurity Industry Award in Canberra on Tuesday night, the award recognises the group’s contribution to Australia’s wine industry biosecurity integrity.
For more information about the Australian Biosecurity Awards click hereA New Chair at WISAWine Industry Suppliers Australia Inc. (WISA), the peak body representing the grape and wine supply chain, has recently announced that Paula Edwards, of member company Winegrapes Australia Pty Ltd, was unanimously voted by the board to the role of Chair at the Associations February meeting. She replaces David Evans who resigned from the board at the end of January.  Kate Bickford was appointed Vice Chair.


Export and Regional Wine Support Package

Australian Vignerons, along with the Winemakers’ Federation, are the peak advocacy bodies with the responsibility to sign off on the Export and Regional Wine Support package.  This will be a combined work with WFA, Wine Australia, The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR), Tourism Australia, and the consulting firm ACIL Allen working together.  Having an independent consulting firm is essential not only for their considerable experience in this type of work, but also as an independent voice.
This work is in progress, but it is likely that the work will add stimulus to wine – based tourism on the domestic front, and therefore stimulate regional economies in wine regions; and also as a boost to export programs.
In the past such marketing programs received only a passing interest from many who are mainly involved in growing fruit, rather than making wine.  Make no mistake, for growers to be profitable, wine companies need to be profitable.  This means that Australia needs to be selling valuable profitably.  This is not possible without producing high quality fruit, making high value wine, and effective marketing.  It is in the interest of every wine grape grower in the country that this program is as successful as it can be, and that it receives input and support from as many regions as possible.
There are consultations sessions coming up in different state locations, to engage with regional wine industry bodies across the country to hear their input and find out what thy think will be the best way to get “bang for buck” with this rare opportunity.
This “whole of industry” focus reinforces the fact that as an industry, growers, winemakers and the numerous allied industries associated with the wine industry will either sink or swim together.  This is one of the main reasons for forming Australian Vignerons; to represent “those who grow and make wine”.  Australian Vignerons is involved in, and strongly supports the marketing and demand stimulus in the Export and Regional Wine support package.  Any regional groups that are yet to register an interest or to get involved are strongly urged to do so.

Commercial Relations

Following the resignation of the Murray Valley Winegrowers and Riverina Winegrapes Marketing Board from Australian Vignerons, replacements are being confirmed for the Code Management Committee.  This is a developing area, with the ACCC making it clear that there is greater focus on unilateral contracts and purchased agreements that may be deemed as unfair.  This was reflected in new legislation that was introduced late last year that was intended to provide greater protection to small businesses.

WFA and AV will be meeting with the ACCC in Melbourne to find out more about how these changes might affect the wine industry, and to make sure that commercial relations in the wine industry are fair and reasonable.  It should be pointed out that as a national advocacy body AV does not see a role in getting involved in individual contracts for sale between wine companies and growers.  The primary role for AV as a national advocacy body is ensuring that commercial trading is fair and reasonable, and that the Code Management Committee operates in respect to the industry Code of Conduct. Regional bodies are more familiar with the fruit pricing arrangements in their region, and questions about regional pricing are best dealt with at that level.

There are real concerns with the way that the Code of Conduct is functioning.  The intended “last” date at which signatories will announce prices has become the earliest date in many cases, and this has led to questionable influence on the pricing that results.  There is a case that the Code of Conduct is not operating as it was intended when it was first released, and there is a strong case to revisit it.  WFA and AV are keen to work together on this and other issues to ensure that the wine industry is as good as it can be.

Alcohol and Health
The issue about alcohol and health is one that is not going to disappear.  The danger to the wine industry, along with other producers of beverages that contain alcohol, is that much of the public comment is emotive, and not based on evidence.  This is seen from recent pressure leading firstly to the recommendation of “four and two” standard drinks per day as a “safe” level, to recent discussion suggesting that no level of consumption is safe.AV were invited by WFA to hear from Alcohol Beverages Australia (ABA), a pan-industry lobby group that is trying to reclaim the discussion around sensible alcohol consumption, and point out that there are positive and enjoyable life benefits involved in sensible consumption of alcohol.  Find out more about ABA here.This issue is an important one for all members of the wine industry.  If policy continues to be influenced by emotive, hyperbolic claims that do not have evidential rigour, it will remain an ongoing threat to the wine community.
Work is continuing in regard to further developing the working relationship between wine industry entities and how biosecurity issues are addressed on behalf of the industry as a whole.  It is fair to say that there is already very good collaboration between the state biosecurity agencies, industry biosecurity groups (such as Vinehealth Australia and the Victorian Vine Biosecurity committee), Wine Australia and Australian Vignerons.   It remains a task to better communicate that to our members about how all of these bodies fit and work together.  The main focus in this determination is that the biosecurity needs of those who own and work in the nation’s vineyard are effectively addressed.  There has been much discussion in the past about who, or which body should “own” biosecurity responsibilities.  The main focus should be on “what” needs to be done, and then figure out who or which entity s best placed to do that task.One of the regular tasks that AV must fulfill is to provide a wine industry perspective on regular biosecurity issues that are raised under the consultative committee for emergency plant pests (CCEPP).  This committee acts in confidence, as must be the case when dealing with suspected (but not proven) biosecurity incursions.The recent activity around a recent issue has highlighted to us the importance of having AV there as an industry voice, to provide industry feedback and an industry perspective on measures required to address such issues.