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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Wine industry rejects ‘no impact’ claims

The NSW Wine Industry Association (NSW Wine) has rejected claims China’s trade war with Australia will have “no impact” on its commercial viability.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce determined late last month that Australian exporters had been dumping wine into its market, prompting Beijing to controversially slap tariffs – some up to 212 per cent – on our nation’s producers, effective immediately.

And , that decision appears likely to have a devastating outcome on the Hunter Valley, too, which boasts more than 150 world-class wineries.

NSW Wine, formed in 1994, believes China’s stance will make the state’s wines unaffordable overseas.

“This puts at great risk not only a large portion of the $150-180m worth of NSW wine exported to China every year, but will put more pressure on many family-owned and run NSW wineries and vineyards alongside the regional communities they live and work in,” president Mark Bourne said.

“The repercussions from a significant loss in an export market as big as China will be felt across the whole wine industry sector.

“Both domestic and international supply chains and markets will feel the effects if a substantial amount of the $1.2b of Australian wine is no longer destined for export to China or has a home.”

Mr Bourne added it was another telling setback for the industry in 2020.

“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,” he said.

“So, we certainly 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.”

What has not been calculated at this stage are the potential substantial losses of Chinese tourism dollars to the NSW economy and, in particular, regional economies, according to Mr Bourne.

“If international relationships between Australia and China do not improve, and Chinese tourists and wine consumers do not return to the Australian market in the numbers we have seen previously, there may be longer term effects even more pronounced,” he said.

“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 said the organisation was still waiting for the NSW Government to agree to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) 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,” he explained.

“Now would be the perfect time for the NSW Government to stand up and support this important industry.”

While the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association understandably did not want to weigh in on the matter, for fear of further reprisals, Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon said the Australian Government needed to accept some of the blame.

“The federal government’s mismanagement of our relationship with our largest trading partner is now hitting the Hunter economy hard,” he stated.

“We’ve seen a block on our coal exports and, now, a job-destroying tariff on our wine.”