South West wine sector gets a boost

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Larry Jorgensen from Wines of WA.
Camera IconLarry Jorgensen from Wines of WA. Credit: Mogens Johansen/WA News, Mogens Johansen Picture: Mogens Johansen

The South West wine sector is set to benefit from a new State Government investment fund.

Promised before the March election, the $6 million Wine Industry Export Growth Partnership aims to increase the value of wine exports and boost jobs in the local industry.

It comes as Australian wine exports to China wither because of trade tariffs imposed by the foreign trading partner.

Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the State Government would kick in $3m for the program, with the industry matching that amount.

“WA wines already have a global reputation for excellence, and this partnership with industry will help to bring more WA wine to the world,” she said.

“The past year has reinforced the importance of diversifying our export markets, and this partnership will channel the resources of government and industry into boosting exports through market positioning and research and development.

“The wine industry is an important job-creator across our southern regions, with flow-on benefits for the tourism and hospitality sector.”

Wines of WA chief executive Larry Jorgensen said industry figures had worked for more than three years in the background to get the new scheme up and running.

Margaret River wine industry veteran Liz Mencel, now working for Adelaide-based viticultural consultants Hydra, will lead on-the-ground efforts in WA.

“It’s going to be relatively fast-moving in the first year,” Mr Jorgensen said.

“There will be some exciting initiatives, and it dovetails into wine tourism as well.”

While WA’s overall exports to China only represented a drop in 4 per cent of the State’s production, the Chinese market — particularly for premium red wines — was 30 per cent of WA’s export market.

Other destinations are now jostling to take up the slack, while the new partnership will initially focus on growing exports to the US and the UK.

A report has already been completed, identifying ways to upscale production and intensify exports to identified markets. Ms Mencel will drive implementation of the plan, with the strongest focus on the Margaret River and Great Southern wine regions.

“There are some other regions which are still aspirational,” Mr Jorgensen said.

“The work will benefit everyone. It should clear a pathway for everyone else (to follow).”

The “WA Wines to the World” project sought to double the value of WA exports to $117 million annually by 2025.

“The final arbiter of all of this is taking it out to industry, saying ‘Here’s what you get, now give it a go’,” he said.

Margaret River Wine Association chief Amanda Whiteland said more than 55 wineries had signed up from across three growing regions.

The WA wine industry contributes to the state economy through grape growing, winemaking and wine tourism activities that create regional jobs and growth.

“WA wine sold in an export market is a postcard for our region,” she said.

“This is more important than ever whilst international visitors can’t travel to Australia.”

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