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Griffith wine grape growers ‘devastated’ by storm damage

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Some wine grape growers in Griffith are reeling after an remoted thunderstorm worn out a lot of their crop simply a few weeks earlier than harvest. 

Large hailstones and winds of more than 100 kilometres per hour pushed over vines and broken grape bunches. 

Grower Robert Bellato mentioned he had misplaced as much as forty per cent of his crop, and a few vines had been completely broken. 

“It actually defoliated the western aspect of the vines. It additionally flattened about 20 rows of grapes which might be on the bottom,” Mr Bellato mentioned. 

“A number of the vines really snapped fully. it has been fairly devastating.” 

Grapes which are discolored or bruised on a vine
Robert Bellato, Griffith estimates as much as 40 per cent of his crop was broken in final week’s storm. (Provided: Robert Bellato )

Like many wine grape growers, Mr Bellato doesn’t have crop insurance coverage. 

“Sadly, crop insurance coverage in viticulture and horticulture could be very, very costly. That is why loads of us do not get the insurance coverage.”

Neighbouring grower Dennis Menegon estimated he had misplaced three-quarters of his grape crop from the hail. 

“There’s nothing you are able to do.”

A flooded road and fallen trees in Griffith NSW
The storm produced winds of as much as 111kph in Griffith, a brand new document for January. (Provided: Tom Breed)

Moist climate results in illness strain

It had already been a difficult season for wine grape growers within the Riverina, the biggest wine-producing area in NSW. 

Riverina Winegrape Advertising and marketing Board chairman Bruno Brombal mentioned moist climate had led to vital illness pressures. 

He mentioned growers have needed to spray as much as 10 occasions this season for fungal ailments like powdery mildew.

Purple wine grape costs drop by 30 per cent

There has additionally been a major drop in costs for pink wine grape varieties.

Riverina growers are presently round $350 a tonne for Shiraz grapes, 30 per cent lower than final 12 months’s costs. 

“A number of the reds have dropped about $150 a tonne on final 12 months,” Mr Brombal mentioned. 

“It is not a great factor costs dropping up to now and [with] the illness issue. Growers cannot afford to go on the market and purchase loads of chemical compounds and spray. 

Mr Brombal mentioned the influence of the Chinese language export tariff was accountable for the drop in pink wine grape costs, with China predominantly a pink wine market. 

A group of pickers pick grapes wearing high vis shirts and surrounded by vines.
There may be concern that COVID-19 infections may result in employee shortages at harvest. (ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

Harvest labour COVID considerations

Riverina wine grape growers normally start harvest this week, however the cool, moist circumstances have slowed grape maturity. 

“I consider we’re about two to 3 weeks behind this 12 months,” Mr Brombal mentioned. 

There’s concern that COVID-19 infections may influence harvest labour, each on the vineyard and farmer sides of the equation.

“If one or two of them will get COVID [in a contract harvesting team], they will be in deep strife.”