THE release of this year’s grape prices has dealt a devastating blow to local growers who have been forced to consider leaving their vines to die.
With prices as low as $180 per tonne for some varieties and yields down to less than two tonnes per acre, Griffith’s growers are contemplating selling their water allocations and abandoning their farms.
Compared to other regions, such as the Murray Valley, local growers have been offered at least $100 less for the same grape varieties.
While many Griffith wineries offer different prices depending on the quality of the fruit and what it will be used for, other regions offer a flat price regardless.
Wine Grapes Marketing Board CEO Brian Simpson said most growers needed to bring in an average of $3000 per acre to survive.
But with low yields brought on by scorching temperatures combined with the flow-on effects from last year’s floods, some yields were 30 to 50 per cent below average and growers were taking in just $400 per acre.
“This has gone on so long that reserves are drying up and this will be the last straw for many growers,” Mr Simpson said.
“I have been inundated with calls from growers and it is heartbreaking. They say the banks don’t want their farms, they’re questioning how they can even get out of the industry.”
There have been some suggestions vintage could be over in as few as five weeks because of the exceptionally low yields but with wineries battling against their own financial issues, prices are unlikely to rise.
“Some growers are amazed at how low their crops are - we’ll be dealing with the fallout from this vintage for the next two years,” Mr Simpson said.
“Many growers believed the industry had turned but a lot of them are at their wit’s end as to how they will continue on.”
Mr Simpson once again urged growers to communicate with their wineries and reveal the gravity of their situations, saying some growers had left their wineries to find better prices elsewhere.
Casella Wines has once again offered some of the highest prices in the region, despite the company’s much-publicised financial strain.
Managing director John Casella said the winery had decided to keep the prices the same as last year.
“At the end of the day, we want our growers to stay viable and strong – we want them to stay in business,” Mr Casella said. “It’s about us ensuring our growers remain viable. We want to assist them so they will be with us in future, because we plan to be here for the future.”
Mr Casella recognised his prices were not as high as some other regions.
“Under the circumstances, we’re doing our best,” he said.