It has been a tough year for many businesses but with the $1.2bn China export market now effectively unviable for Australian wine producers, they are a group who have been dealt a particularly tough 2020.
The year started with bushfires and smoke damage for so many, but then COVID-19 and its lockdowns and the subsequent drop-off in tourism are seeing many of Australia’s grape growers and winemakers really doing it tough.
That’s why Australians are being called on to do their bit and show their support for the industry, as Tony Battaglene, Chief Executive of Australian Grape & Wine (AGW), explains: “I’ve had dozens of emails and calls from people across Australia who want to support Australian grape growers and winemakers after what they’ve been through in 2020.”
That’s why Australian wine lovers are being urged to choose Australian this summer and to celebrate as a community on social media using the #chooseaustralianwine hashtag.
“If you enjoy a glass of wine, choose something from your favourite Australian producer this year. Better yet, wrap up a case and put it under the Christmas tree for your family and friends.” said Battaglene.
“We currently import around 125 million bottles of wine each year from overseas. If Australian wine lovers decide to buy Australian instead, it will go a long way to cushioning the blow grape and wine businesses have been dealt in 2020.
“This isn’t about drinking more wine. We want everyone who chooses to enjoy a glass of Australian wine to do so in moderation, with food, family and friends. And if you do, make sure you raise a glass to the grape growers and winemakers who battle the elements to produce these beautiful products every year.
“It doesn’t matter if you choose to buy a glass, a bottle or a case. The choice to buy Australian this summer will flow directly back to Australia’s rural and regional economies and provide a much-needed boost for growers and winemakers.”
As the impact of the anti-dumping tariffs is being to be felt across the industry Battaglene said AGW members “will continue to cooperate with MOFCOM as the investigation continues, working towards an outcome that is consistent with the facts of the case, and supports the growth of the wine industry in Australia and China.”
He added: “We continue to stand firm that Australian exporters are not dumping wines in the Chinese market, nor have they received subsidies that have had a negative impact on the Chinese wine industry.”
Battaglene also addressed a social media campaign which is urging Australians to steer clear of 41 Australian wineries, after a viral list revealed they were owned or part-owned by Chinese companies. He said this type of campaign fails to recognise that all grape, wine and export businesses contribute to Australian regional investment, jobs and economic growth.
“I am outraged and disappointed that this campaign targets Chinese owned businesses,” Battaglene said. “The Australia -Chinese community is an important and valued part of the Australian wine sector. They make great wine, employ local people and generate money into the local and national economy.
“I would also emphasise that the Chinese consumers also continue to value our wine, but will be unable to access our wine due to the unjustified and punitive import duties that have been placed on our wine in China.
“If Australians really want to support the grape and wine sector, then buy a case of Australian wine for your friends, give it to them for Christmas and then every time you share a bottle with family and friends you will know you are helping rural and regional Australia. Let’s not unjustifiably target a group who are valued members of the community.”
Meanwhile the NSW wine industry has rejected claims that the anti-dumping tariffs will have no impact.
NSW Wine President Mark Bourne said: “After a devastating period of a multi-year drought, fires, smoke, crop losses and shutdowns due to COVID-19, we now have a 212 per cent charge imposed on NSW wines bound for export to China and we reject any claims or comments of no significant impacts on the NSW wine industry as a result of this China trade dispute.
“Following this latest in a line of blows to the NSW wine industry and its 53,000 direct and indirect employees, we are desperately searching for a reprieve from a tumultuous 12 months, along with support to survive and rebound.
“I am respectfully issuing an invitation to our elected NSW representatives to meet as soon as possible to experience and hear first-hand from our hard working grape growers, winemakers on how this latest, and previous compounding rounds of setbacks, are impacting our industry and our regional communities.”
NSW Wine Executive Officer Angus Barnes added: “We are still waiting for the NSW Government to agree to a Memorandum of Understanding between industry and government after more than two years of requests. An effective MOU would outline the best ways to work together and how the government can support the industry to be competitive and sustainable, and now would be the perfect time for the NSW Government to stand up and support this important industry.”