Winemakers’ plea to help fight China bullies
Wine industry heavyweights are calling on Aussie revellers to rally behind local producers in standing up to the Chinese government's bullying tactics after a horror year for the sector.
Australian wine producers have battled years of drought, the 2019 Black Summer bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic only to now face Chinese tariffs of up to 200 per cent that have a crippling effect on many growers.
The latest attack is a part of the ongoing Australian-Chinese trade war, with the Communist nation previously imposing 80 per cent tariffs on barley and banning imports from six Australian beef suppliers.
The trade relations between the two countries have been prickly since the Federal Government called for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.
Wine industry bosses are urging locals to celebrate with homegrown wine this festive season instead of imported products.
Tyrrell Wines chief executive Bruce Tyrrell criticised China for imposing new tariffs on producers and acting like a schoolyard bully.
"China has been behaving like this for quite a while and it's like the big bully in the schoolyard. There is only one way to fix that and that's to stand up to it," he said.
"There are a number of producers out there whose businesses are largely China based and now their market is gone … (But) we don't need to be afraid of China. The current government in China is not a 100 per cent secure and there is growing opposition to it.
"It's wonderful for people support their own people and most of us are doing it naturally. This China situation will prod those who aren't already to also back local suppliers."
Australian Grape and Wine chief executive Tony Battaglene said considering the Chinese tariffs, it was crucial that locals helped producers get through the supply that can now not be exported.
"It's been a pretty tough year with the bushfires and smoke and COVID. Now, with China the big concern is that it impacts about 2400 producers. We need people to try and get through this year's supply as we much as possible," he said.
"There is no doubt now that there are political motivations behind this and (China's tactics) are going across the agriculture sector. They are clearly trying to put a lot of pressure on our producers.
"China is a $1.2b market and that is a lot of wine to try and move into other markets. We hope everyone gives a case of wine to their friends for Christmas to try and help producers."
Peak body Wine Australia also backed the calls for Aussies to give the gift of local wine this Christmas.
"The recently announced changes to tariffs will affect thousands of wine companies exporting to China … Unfortunately, the tariffs come off the back of a year where wineries in some regions have been affected by fires and, more broadly, by the restrictions on cellar doors (imposed by COVID-19 safeguards)," a spokeswoman said.
"The best thing to do this Christmas is buy Australian and, if (people) get the opportunity, please do go out and explore the many brilliant regions and get to know some wineries first-hand."
Harkham Wines owner Richard Harkham lost 80 per cent of his produce due to bushfire smoke and hopes locals will step up and support the industry in the face of China's actions.
"As a nation we've endured a lot over the past few years so it's really important that we support each other. We're a very resilient bunch to get through what we have gotten though and now it's about continuing that," he said.
"You have to support your family first. When we sell our wine in Australia, we make a lot more revenue than when we sell overseas due to the added costs involved. This is the time we need to rally together to get through what's happening."
Iron Gate Estate director and general manager Gavin Kuo said support from locals is what can keep smaller wineries alive in the face of growing international competition.
"We are hoping people will help us survive and we need people to keep drinking local wine. With the bushfires and COVID and people not able to come out to wine country during last year's peak season - we were heavily impacted," he said.
"Now if people drink our wine and come down and support us, it will give us a fighting chance to recuperate what we have lost in the last four to five years."
Mudgee local Tristan Clarke said he's looking forward to travelling to wine regions across the country to help support the industry in light of borders opening.
"I'm a big wine drinker and I will 100 per cent continue to drink Australian grown wine this summer. After the year we've had, there has never been a better time to drink local," he said.
"We are not bound by the rules in other countries, so we have amazing variety at our doorstep. I plan on visiting Orange very soon and now that state borders have opened up, I'm looking into going down to Victoria's wine regions too."
To help back Australian wine producers, The Daily Telegraph is offering readers the delicious. Drink Delivered Australian wines offer.
The offer is a mixed case of all Australian wines, with most of the wines from smaller estate wineries around the country.
The case of 12 mixed wines, plus two free Tyrrell's sparkling wines will cost just $139.99.
Order now to get your wine by Christmas through www.ddd.wine/6000013
News Corp Australia has launched a nationwide campaign to support the struggling sector with the Delicious Drinks Delivered offer.
Originally published as Winemakers' plea to help fight China bullies