The rapid growth of Australian wine exports appears to have cooled.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released last month show that the amount of Australian wine being exported, and its value, flattened in the past financial year.

According to the ABS, Australia exported 578.3 million litres of wine with a value of $2.5 billion last financial year.

While both were record achievements, the rates of growth were well below increases achieved in previous years.

The value of sales last year grew by just 2 per cent ($48 million) on the 2002-2003 financial year.

The previous year, however, the value of wine exports grew from $2.11 billion to $2.42 billion, or 15 per cent, while average growth over the past decade has been 10 per cent.

In 2003-2004 Australian exports totalled 578.3mL, an increase of 11.5 per cent on 2002-03.

The rate of growth was well down on the previous four years, in which growth increased by an average of 27 per cent.

In terms of specific demand the US, Australia’s biggest buyer of wine, was well ahead of traditional buyer the UK, while sales to Europe and Russia fell slightly.

Sales to North Asia were also well up, soaring 28.5 per cent to $74 million.

However, Wine Industry Association of WA chief executive officer Sue Vidvich said she was yet to see figures that accurately portrayed exports from Western Australia.

The ABS figures are not broken up on a State-by-State basis and the only other figures available are those from the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation.

While these figures are broken down by State, the WIAWA does not subscribe to the corporation’s figures because of doubt it holds about their accuracy.

Newspaper reports of the AWBC figures, however, indicate that offshore wine sales grew by 6 per cent in value to $2.57 billion in 2003 and 2004.

Both the ABS and AWBS figures, however, are still well below growth rates the industry has achieved in previous years.

One of WA’s and Australia’s biggest wine exporters, Evans and Tate, which recorded strong wine sales from its local business, particularly in the US, acknowledged a slow down.

Evans and Tate executive chairman Franklin Tate said the slowdown was not necessarily bad for the industry, but rather indicated a trade reaching more sustainable levels.

“Its not going backward, it’s still going forward,” Mr Tate told WA Business News.

“It’s a real environment rather than the artificial demand the industry witnessed five years ago.”

He said demand had eased to a more realistic level and sorted out the bad businesses from the good ones.