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Riverland grape growers ‘at breaking point’

Grape growers in Australia are heading to crisis talks with the wine industry and government as prices fall to 1970s levels.

(Image: istock/vineyard in Riverland)

It comes as wineries are offering farmers rates as low as AU$120 a tonne (£62) despite the costs of production being more than double this amount.

The news follows Riverland Wine group organising an assembly of 900 growers at the request of the South Australian Government to understand concerns.

At the meeting yesterday (21 February), BBN Bloomberg reported that it was clear growers wanted more than just financial aid and a “dignified exit” from winegrowing.

It said that farmers had called for not just immediate relief that was necessary but also to “facilitate a transition out of an industry” that had become “unsustainable”.

There was concern that Labor member of the South Australian Legislative Council Clare Scriven and current premier of South Australia were absent from the meeting due to “parliamentary commitments’, and which created the impression of the growers’ worries not being heard.

According to reports in ABC News, some growers are so debt-laden that they are considering walking away from the wine industry and vineyards that have been planted many decades ago.

Ready to get out

Simi Gill told the publication: “I think this year is the last year that we can make it through. We just need to pay off any debts, and we are ready to get out of our vineyard anyway we can.”

“Some of us can’t sleep at night,” she addecd.

Third generation grape grower Peter Arnold added that prices had been set at 1970 levels and “costs had gone through the roof”.

As a result, Arnold was turning to growing pumpkins.

General manager of US-owned company The Wine Group (TWG), Brigid Nolan, told ABC that wineries were offering low prices as they tried to remain viable in a tough global market.

Industry group Australian Grape and Wine has requested the government provide AU$86m support package at the May budget.


The news follows Riverland grape growers earlier this month lining the streets of the town of Renmark with their agricultural vehicles to express their concerns for the future of the region’s wine industry.

The protest involved a convoy of tractors and trucks driving through Renmark, which is on the banks of the Murray River, and parking their vehicles to block traffic.

ABC News reported that the demonstration was organised by third-generation grape grower Sava Giahgias, who is worried that grape growing is becoming increasingly unsustainable and may lead to a “collapse” of viticulture, and the livelihoods that depend on it: “This is what I love doing and I want to keep doing it, but at these prices we can’t keep doing it.”

“The Riverland is going to collapse if this is not happening,” Giahgias argued. “Us farmers are the Riverland. We are the food bowl.”

According to Riverland Wine, the region’s 2023 harvest provided a third (34%) of Australia’s annual crush.


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