Wine industry to leaders: ‘Pull your head in’
AUSTRALIAN winemakers fear trade tensions with China could cripple the industry already struggling to bounce back from multimillion-dollar losses caused by drought and coronavirus.
Queensland businesses are bracing for what Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has called a full-blown trade war after the Chinese Government announced it was prepared to slap an 80 per cent tariff on the Australian barley industry and block imports from three of the state's major abattoirs.
Queensland Wine Industry Association president Mike Hayes said the sector was struggling enough without a government "witch-hunt" to target China over the outbreak of the virus, and further damage to the relationship could be devastating.
"I don't think having a hate campaign is worth the trouble of us having to lose some of our valuable trading partners, and particularly those that are right on our doorsteps," he said.
"For goodness sake, have a look, wake up and pull your head in - and that's to all government.
"It irks me so much to see we're being restricted business wise in our industry and we're screaming out to try and have people come back and try our wine and then on top of that, a few larger ones (wineries) in the state, could lose one of their valuable lifelines, which is trading with our Asian partners - its just absurd."
Australian Grape and Wine chief executive Tony Battaglene said the industry also suffered after the traditionally busy Chinese New Year saw an excess of exports sent to market in preparation prior to the shutdown.
"Wine consumption over the shutdown period, which included Chinese new year, was lower than anticipated, and hence there was some excess stock, therefore, the impact on exports is only now being felt," he said.
Witches Falls Winery owner Jon Heslop, who exports around 10 per cent of his wine to China, said although the export restrictions would create difficulties, it was important for Australia to diversify and have less reliance on the country.
"This would not be the first time the Chinese Government put arbitrary barriers in front of the wine industry to prevent our exports to China," he said.
However, Mount Tamborine Vineyard and Winery managing director Danielle Hart O'Regan said an oversupply would be good for the domestic market which would see more support for the burgeoning industry.
Originally published as Wine industry to leaders: 'Pull your head in'