Grower returns crushed

A LOCAL grape grower has ripped out one quarter of his vines because of unsustainable prices and damage from this season's black frost.

Rod Gribble from Bilbul said he didn't make the decision to remove his Semillon grapes lightly because of the considerable cost involved, but vowed to reinvest in a variety more suited to the north-Asian market.

Mr Gribble said it was quite plain Semillon was on the nose as current pricing returned less than half the production cost.

"The pricing is quite simply unsustainable and from what I can gather other wineries have a very limited call for Semillon as well," Mr Gribble said.

"It is a horrendously expensive exercise to change varieties.

"Depending on what you do it ranges from about $7000 per hectare up to around $15,000 per hectare in replacement and re-establishment costs.

"Normally you would pick the grapes and revamp the vineyard to whatever suited, but it's not worthwhile picking at current prices and because our vineyard was severely frosted.

"The frost was one thing but then the price signals forced the determination to chuck the variety out and start with something new."

Mr Gribble was thankful he was in a position to reinvest as he said other farmers suffering from at least five years of bad grape prices may not be so fortunate.

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He said he would take his time to consider what variety would fare best under hot conditions with little water.

"There's a significant risk of low water allocations and electricity costs are exhorbant at the moment.

"You have to pick a variety that makes money and can handle the heat stress and reduced watering if it comes to it."

In reference to the effect of the current heat-wave, Mr Gribble said grape growers would know by Monday whether berries would be burnt.

"There's a reasonable likelihood some varieties will be effected by this heat because it's too bloody hot for them," he said.

"Most people have very good irrigation practices but it's so hot and the grapes are trying to mature which requires a lot of moisture that that the grapes can't handle it."

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