BLACK frost has decimated grape vines across the Riverina with some local farmers reportedly losing their entire yield.
The Riverina Wine Grapes Marketing Board (WGMB) began frantically compiling an assessment for possible disaster relief as farmers scrutinised their balance sheets fearing visits from bank managers.
WGMB CEO Brian Simpson said the combination of a black frost and roasting hot weather scorched the vines.
“I haven’t heard of a farmer that hasn’t been affected, this damaging frost was very widespread,” Mr Simpson said.
“The damage ranges from growers who have just lost the tips of leaves right through to growers that have lost everything.
“Frosts are indiscriminate but the initial reports we are hearing is that chardonnay, pinot grigio and cabernet sauvignon grapes have suffered the worst.”
Local grapegrower Joe Sergi said he had lost at least 50 per cent of his 600-acre vineyard but won’t know the full extent of the damage for a month.
“This has knocked me around a bit because I am going to have to go out and see the damage every single day,” Mr Sergi said.
“This might mean the bank manager gets very friendly with me because my whole farm is grapes.
“Half the crop has died but it could be more than that, I will find out at fruit-set in four weeks.”
Another local grapegrower, Mario Arcifa also lost half his yield but could afford to see the glass half-full as he wasn’t solely reliant on grapes for his income.
Mr Arcifa hoped grape prices would increase on the back of the frost to a level that would make growing grapes commercially viable again.
“This frost is devastating to me but I feel worse for the people who rely on grapes as their sole revenue stream who may be put out of business by this frost,” Mr Arcifa said.
“The only good thing to come from this disaster is that there should be an increase in the price of what grapes have survived.
“If there is an oversupply then the price won’t change but if a shortage arises then prices should go up, at least we’ll finally know if the wineries are giving us the right price which we don’t normally know until half-way through the harvesting season.”