By Ian Neubauer

Scorching temperatures in the Murray-Darling Basin are tightening the noose around viticulturists in the region whose livelihoods are already threatened by the most severe drought to hit the region on record.

Hot weather arrived early in November with temperatures up to 6°C above normal, while temperatures in some areas have surpassed 40°C. The Bureau of Meteorology attributes unseasonably high temperatures to La Niña—an ocean-atmosphere event that lowers sea surface temperatures and creates unusually high temperatures and dry spells on land.

The heat wave is hastening the ripening and burning of grapes in the Murray Darling Basin, forcing viticulturists to cull vast sections of their vineyards and brings into question the ongoing viability of small- and medium-sized growers vineyards in the region.

Murray Valley Winegrowers
CEO Mike Stone told The Australian the region could harvest as little as 300,000 tonnes of grapes this year compared to the 2005 yield of 440,000 tonnes. “[Viticulturists] have been hurt so badly, I don’t think they will be jumping back into it,” he said.

Exacerbating the problem are drops in the price of grape wines by as much as $50 a tonne and unprecedented instability in the cost of water. In 2006 a million litres of water cost less than $100. The price skyrocketed to $1000 at the beginning of the planting season last year when most viticulturists bought their water, but has now floated below the $400 mark

The Shout Team

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