By Ian Neubauer
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has granted interim authorisation for 39 Victorian wine grape growers to appoint the North East Valleys Wine Group to negotiate wine grape supply contracts.
“The AAAC considers that the possible anti-competitive effect of the arrangement is limited by the voluntary nature of the arrangement, the comparative size of the bargaining group and competition from wine grape growers outside the group,” said ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel.
“Allowing the wine grape growers to collectively sell wine grapes does not reduce the ability of growers to negotiate individual agreements with buyers outside the collective arrangement.”
The decision came on the heels of an announcement by the Wine Grape Growers Australia (WGGA) advising growers suffering from commodity prices coming in below production costs to commence pricing disputes with wineries to force price reviews.
“Wineries continue to rebuild their profits while growers’ incomes remain negative. The market is not reflecting these shortages of fruit because a number of major wineries amended their price downwards before Christmas on their own grossly revised national crop estimates,” said WGGA executive director, Mark McKenzie. "With vintage underway and crops lighter than predicted, wineries are now revising their production estimates downwards in line with the real outlook, but grape prices are not reflecting this.”
Lighter than average crops have been confirmed in the Murray Darling Basin, where high temperatures and the most severe draught on record are forcing wine grape growers to cull vast swaths of their crops. And while torrential rains across NSW may have broken the draught in the Hunter Valley region, high humidity levels are providing a breeding ground for bunch rot and other diseases.
“You’ve got botrytis, noble rot, the good bunch rot, which, if you let it go, it takes over and destroys the whole bunch,” Hunter Valley winemaker, Bruce Tyrrell, told the ABC. “If you’ve got a bit of it, you can actually add some really nice character and complexity to the wine. And then you get black rots and bitter rots, which are not very pleasant.”