House debates

Monday, 18 March 2024

Private Members' Business

Wine Industry

7:00 pm

Photo of Dan RepacholiDan Repacholi (Hunter, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I want to talk about Australia's amazing wine industry. It's a big deal globally, and it shows how dedicated and tough Aussies are. Australia is the fifth-biggest wine producer in the world, making some of the best wines ever tasted, and the Hunter Valley is a major contributor to that. Our wines are enjoyed everywhere, thanks to the hard work of over 160,000 people in this industry.

While we revel in our success, we must also confront the challenges that have beset us in recent years. It hasn't all been smooth sailing. We've been facing some really tough times lately. Our wine exports have dropped, and grape prices have fallen sharply. The total value of Australian wine exports declined by 2.4 per cent to $1.9 billion in the year to December 2023. But the 2023 figures tell only part of the recent story, with exports down one-third compared to 2021. The average red grape prices have dropped below the cost of production, from $650 per tonne in 2020 to $277 per tonne in 2023.

Changes in what people want and trade problems have made things tricky. The decline in Australian wine exports, coupled with the plummeting grape prices, paints a sobering picture. Trade disruptions and shifting consumer preferences have reshaped the landscape of our industry, demanding adaptability and innovation from all stakeholders. When they stopped, our exports to China were worth over $1.1 billion each and every year, and it was an industry that was growing in terms of the export potential. This week we have an interim decision which says that the wine industry will again be able to export to China freely. That will make an enormous difference for jobs, particularly in the Hunter.

I know that some of the wineries are under real pressure, yet, in the face of this adversity, the Australian government remains steadfast in its commitment to support our wine industry, through initiatives like the Agriculture Trade and Market Access Cooperation, ATMAC, program, which strives to cultivate long-term sustainable demand for Australian wine. We provide more than $3.3 million, through three grants, to Australian Grape and Wine, and more than $1.1 million, through two grants, to the Australian Food and Wine Collaboration Group, which includes Wine Australia.

The idea is to create a long-lasting demand for Australian wine by selling it to more places and making better trade deals. We are continuing to pursue ambitious free trade agreements and support greater demand for Australian wine. In May we entered into a free trade agreement with the UK which eliminated all tariffs on Australian wine. In 2022 we entered into a trade agreement with India which lowered tariffs significantly and established a joint dialogue, and we are currently negotiating a more comprehensive agreement with India.

But we are not just helping on the global stage; we are also supporting our own grape growers who are struggling financially. Programs like the Rural Financial Counselling Service offer help and advice to farmers and small businesses in trouble. Rural financial counsellors are qualified professionals who can provide support that is unique to a primary producer's situation, at no cost to the client. There are also special payments and loans to help them through tough times. Programs such as the farm household allowance and concessional loans from the Regional Investment Corporation provide essential lifelines to those facing economic hardship. The program has already provided over $800 million in payments to farmers and producers, including fortnightly payments and additional allowances, such as rent assistance, case support and farm financial assessments.

I'm particularly heartened by the collaborative efforts of all levels of government and industry stakeholders in establishing the viticulture and wine sector working group. This initiative underscores our collective commitment to address the challenges confronting wine grapegrowers, especially in inland regions such as the Riverland and Riverina. Through collaboration and cooperation we endeavour to devise effective solutions and chart a course towards a brighter future for our industry. There are challenges the sector continues to face, but it can be confident that the Albanese Labor government is working closely with the industry, state governments and Wine Australia to monitor the situation and ensure that growers have their rights—the right tools, support and information they need to make decisions about their future.


No comments