THE Western Australian wine industry remains in a strong position despite what was a difficult 2001-02 overall, according to industry figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
While WA’s grape production in 2001-02 increased 3.3 per cent to 63,559 tonnes, covering more than 11,000 hectares, the data showed a drop in the number of wine grapes crushed during the year, which fell 1.4 per cent to 51,246t.
This was due mainly to the fall in crush of white grape varieties, which fell more than 12 per cent to 22,709t, while the red grape crush was up almost 10 per cent to 28,538t.
A number of adverse seasonal factors contributed to the fall, including below average temperatures and water restrictions. But the data indicated that the quality of the produce remained high, producing what the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation referred to as an “excellent vintage”.
In keeping with the higher demand for red wine, Wine Industry Association of WA chief executive officer Sarah Dent said there had been a large increase in red grape plantings nationwide.
She said that there had been a shortage of white grapes in the past two years, but a large number of white grapes were now being planted.
Despite the high quality, the average dollar-per-litre value of WA wine has dropped in the last five years, which Ms Dent attributes to competition pressure pricing premium producers out of the market.
She said small and medium producers were being forced to export most of their product because they cannot compete domestically with the mass produced labels.
The South West remains by far the largest wine producing area in the State in terms of total area and production, with 9,208 hectares of vines producing more than 54,000t of grapes.
Margaret River heads the regions in terms of wine grape crush numbers, accounting for more than 22,000t, or 43.7 per cent, of the State’s crush, followed by the Great Southern area with 10,594t.
The ABS report indicates that WA can expect some steady growth in the wine industry in the next few years.
With the export market, currently worth more than $45 million to WA, and continuing to grow, wine grape crush numbers are also expected to keep increasing.
More favourable growing conditions this season should lead to a sharp increase in the number of red and white grapes crushed, while regions such as Swan and Manjimup should continue to see increasingly larger yields over the next five years.
The Great Southern district is expected to contribute to the State’s growth in the future, with a projected increase of nearly 35 per cent on its 2001-02 grape crush of 10,594t.
Much of this projected yield growth is due to the maturing of vines planted between 1997 to 1999. These vines were now coming into production and were expected to produce an average of between 12,000t and 15,000t of fruit each year for the next few years.
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