Dismal haul to cripple sector

GRAPE growers are expecting a very light vintage as they begin harvesting white wine varieties from as early as next week.

Black frost, hail and high temperatures in December have decimated crops, with early estimations suggesting at least one third of the region's wine stocks will be wiped out.

Local grape grower David Rossetto had heard wineries are likely to offer lower prices than last year, which he described as being the nail in the coffin for many growers.

"Generally at meetings between growers we've been to we're hearing the prices are going to be down," Mr Rossetto said.

"Considering how bad it's been for how long there'll be more farmers getting depressed and more that have to pack up and go.

"I don't think doing it tough is the right phrase any more.

"Tough is when things are hard and you can eventually put food on the table after some hard work ... but it's now just unrealistic and unsustainable."

Mr Rossetto said competition overseas, cheap labour and Australian red tape compounded the unprofitability of growing grapes.

Another difficulty grape growers are expected to face during vintage will be the ripening of various varieties at the same time.

Kristy Bartrop from Riverina Wine Grapes Marketing Board (WGMB) estimated this vintage would be between 60,000 and 100,000 tonnes down on last year.

"Indications are a number of the varieties will ripen at the same time, reds and whites at once so it will be hectic," she said.

"A good third of the crush is missing, so nobody's going to be particularly excited about it."

Ms Bartrop said the intensity of this year's short vintage would see a dramatic increase in trucks on local roads and reminded drivers to be alert to trucks on roads where the would not otherwise travel.

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