AN oversupply of wine grapes is causing uncertainty in the industry as Chinese tariffs continue to impact growers and winemakers.
China imposed tariffs on Australian wine in late 2020 effectively shutting out local wines from distribution causing a glut in supply and leaving growers with unsold grapes.
Red wine varieties have been particularly affected.
Riverina Winegrape Grower's chief executive officer Jeremy Cass said things were not looking good for next season with wineries reporting full tanks, grape prices plummeting and input costs rising.
"There's a lot of doom and gloom due to the oversupply caused by the Chinese tariffs," he said.
"Going forward that's leading to a perfect storm - we realise there's supply chain issues and everything like that as well as the tariffs impacting.
"At the end of the day it's looking like wineries may not be able to take all the fruit from our area next year and there is some talk of caps and prices weakening especially in red varieties like Shiraz.
"With the rising cost of inputs like labour and chemicals it's not looking very good at all to being a profitable vineyard owner in the Riverina at the moment."
Mr Cass said grower's issues were compounding after lower yields this past season due to disease. With approximately 275 growers in the area a total of 317,000 tonnes of grapes were picked this year.
"We're estimating it could've been more than 360,000 tonnes this year if everything had been picked," he said.
"There were some very good crops out there but some of them got lost because of disease pressure."
But it wasn't all a disaster as more growers are turning to the Durif grape variety with yields of 15,000 tonnes this year and expected to continue to rise moving forward.
To help alleviate the pressures facing growers Mr Cass said the sector was lobbying federal government to cover the costs of transitioning out of grapes.
"We know there are some industries that are a bit undersubscribed at the moment," he said.
"It's an interesting conundrum at the moment - if we could get some of our growers to transition out and bring it back into balance in the short term it would greatly help."
"We would like some sort of financial support to help us do that because it seems like a total waste of labour and chemical and fuel and all the other things that are in short supply to grow grapes and just have to throw them on the ground and for growers to make a loss doing that."
For second generation Griffith wine grape grower Bruno Brombal diversifying his farm has been key to staying afloat during tough periods and give the family business a future.
Mr Brombal said after previous uncertainty in the industry he chose to add citrus and prunes to the farm.
"It's probably the best thing we've done," he said.
"That's helped us keep the vineyards going."
With his children on the farm too Mr Brombal said they're not sure what the future holds with potential opportunities in olives or nuts and were currently experimenting with pomegranates.
"There's an opportunity to do something else but you need the cash flow to do it," he said.
"For young people knowing that the industry isn't going to well and you can't make a profit they've got to really think about the future and if they want to stay in the industry or whether they just want to move on."
Mr Brombal said it was looking disastrous for red wine grape growers next season with prices plummeting in recent years from more than $600 per tonne to $325 and continuing to drop.
"We're hearing under $300 (next season) which is definitely not going to keep growers surviving on that lower price so we're just hoping the export market gets going and they (wineries) can buy more fruit," he said.
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