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Riverland grape growers call for financial support measures to save local industry

22 February 2024

More than 175 Riverland grape growers and industry and government representatives have met to discuss the future of the local industry, calling for urgent action to ensure it can overcome low prices, an over-supply and poor profitability.

Hosted by industry group Riverland Wine, the forum asked growers to voice their concerns about their future in the industry and their financial viability, and to come up with immediate term solutions to put to local, state and federal government representatives with industry consensus.

Riverland Wine Executive Officer Lyndall Rowe said growers were increasingly frustrated with the low prices being offered for their grapes, among the many other challenges they have faced in recent years.

“The situation is desperate and there were some growers last night saying it was difficult putting food on the table, let alone pick grapes and try and sell them for a price which will cost them money, not earn them a cent,” Ms Rowe said.

“They fear the Riverland will be decimated with growers pulling out of the industry because they can’t afford to grow grapes anymore, leaving the region as a series of ghost towns for our youth.

“It was clear they need support, while medium and longer-term strategies to raise the region’s profile, allow for succession planning and to reach new markets are helpful, they need immediate help.”

Suggestions raised at the grower meeting include:

• Financial support, including relief from bills, loan repayment relief, support packages for people wanting to or being forced to exit the industry;

• Financial support to pick to ground or pause vineyards for one to two vintages until conditions improve;

• Introducing licence conditions for growers (similar to the fishing industry) to preserve the industry’s values, standards and quality of grapes;

• Re-establish a floor price for grapes, and financially supplement any difference between the market price and a floor price;

• Introduce a moratorium on new vineyard plantings, and more oversight on corporate plantings, including ensuring any vineyard reductions were required first by corporates before family businesses;

• Financial support for growers to transition varietals;

• Altering regional planning zoning rules to release blocks for residential use;

• Hosting another meeting with government decision-makers; and

• Marketing and business coaching support.

“Our growers need immediate crisis support, and we will be putting their suggestions to our local councils, the State Government and the Federal Government, and we are hoping our industry partners will support our calls to help save the nation’s largest grape growing region,” Ms Rowe said.

“It’s not just our growers – as a viable and strong industry in our region, we create jobs for grape pickers, winemakers, wineries and local hospitality venues, transport providers, local retailers and more. The flow on effects if our growers can’t run profitable businesses are significant and far-reaching.”

The results of last night’s forum at Barmera, once circulated and feedback sought among growers, will be put to the three tiers of government and circulated to industry groups in the coming days.

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