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TOO MUCH: Margaret River grape growers may have to swap vines for mines as the industry continues its struggle

Wine a contender for worst industry

Margaret River grape growers might hate the idea of a coal mine in their backyard, but unless the outlook for Australian wine improves they might have to change their minds.

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South Perth
Tim makes some good points but as usual a blanket approach doesn't suit all participants. There are some quite profitable and low debt holding family wine businesses in Margaret River and other places that are doing quite well and will continue to do so, long after all the "elderly, and cranky, retired Perth professionals" have moved on. It is a pity that all the negatives surrounding the wine industry currently are accumulated and reported on, much in the same way as any other industry is when things are bad. It wasn't that long ago (try 10 years ago exactly) when the gold price was below USD$300/oz. I wonder how many gold industry "professionals" and industry commentators were wiping gold mining off as a viable industry at the time. Phil Ruthven from IBISWorld produced a paper late 2009 that showed some quite positive signs for the Australian wine industry over the next 10 years and the logic appears sound. Now that we are starting to see the end of the massive corporatisation of the Australian wine business we might get back to seeing well-crafted wines again command realistic prices. There are already green shoots appearing, those close to the wine business know where they are growing.

Margaret River
Shame Tim doesn't still understand that coal mining is environmentally unacceptable on scientific grounds. He has been told, I told him a month or so back, but clearly that conversation was lost. The region is an icon that has hosted other iconic land-uses - timber, dairy, and of course wine too. Lots of land-uses. No doubt this will change and evolve over time too. Basically - the Region is the host. It is a timeless icon. It is underpinned by criitical assets like water systems and other natural assets. The banning of coal mining is not just about coal versus wine, although the myth of co-existence has been busted. It is about the good planning and management of the host - whatever its future. The host does not reject regionally sensitive aspirations and land-uses, and it has planning schemes that are always evolving. It just doesn't see the need to allow coal mining in region critical aquifers.

Osmington
A pity journalists don't have to do compulsory Philosophy! The wine industry having a tough time at the moment doesn't imply that the coal industry will save the region.The dairy industry has had trouble, but you didn't recommend coal replaces that. You can't eat coal or money. There is an increasing destruction of our food supplies, because the mines are taking over. More and more wineries are becoming green even though it costs them more, because they are aware of theproblem of killing the goose that lays the golden egg, and it is important to maintain the health of the land. The coal industry has no such concerns. It is solely after profit at the expense of local flora and fauna, and especially at the expense of water security and future food resources. It would kill any other agricultural industry if allowed to proceed. No wineries does not mean more coal mines/.

Mosman Park
Oh for goodness sake Tim. Your suggestion that coal mining is appropriate in MR instead of a wine industry of international reputation as a consequence of current circumstances is ridiculous and nothing but a sensationalist, attention seeking attempt at controversial journalism to attract attention on your career. Unhelpful , unreasonable, unjustified.

Bull Creek
I think it is valuable to point out that water is the issue here, not wine. If the water supply is being polluted then wine sales may escalate as we will have to drink that and not water..........Lets keep focussed on the real issues, I amsure the rest of the world thinks we are idiots to even contemplate allowing this coal mining to happen in these environments. There is so little clean drinking water left in the world.

Sydney
Tim - you have no concept of reality. Clearly the wine industry doesn't need another kick in the guts. I am sure you have enjoyed wine from this iconic region. Giving general statements about the wine industry make you look pathetic. Margaret River is a premium wine region with grape prices maintaining value of over $3k per tonne. it is not comparable to warm bulk wine producing areas.

Margaret River
My My...everyone is sensitive aren't they! I think the author is only using Margaret River and the "coal mining issue" as an illustration of the current state of the wine industry...nationally. It is indeed an effective illustration. While the Margaret River region is perceived to sit at the premium end of the scale, and is thus, not quite as vilnerable as the lower and middle echelons, the grape glut and other factors outlined in the authors article are having a very real affect on growers in the Margaret River region. To Roland, it is definitely not the norm for Margaret River growers to be receiving $3000 per tonne for fruit. This happens only in exceptional cases. The regional average is easily half that sum, which makes grape production (without value-adding) in the region unsustainable. Additionally, those growers who are hanging in and selling their fruit at a price well below their cost of production are just prolonging the agony.

Perth
Tim, Life's too short to drink bad wine! The frustrating thing about an article written in such a way it doesn’t recognize that the wine business is cyclical and even though challenges are significant, Wine Australia and WFA recognised last year that Margaret River has a long term positive outlook on a variety of factors, such as consistency, climate, tourism, infrastructure and above all quality. I recall a wine conference in 2003 called Liquid Assets where two significant speeches were made. In 1972 similar claims were made and Shiraz was ripped out of the ground when the wine glut was looming. James Halliday revealed the date as he spoke and the crowd was gasping as the same issue rose its head, just before the boom in the UK (which WA premium wine benefitted from). The second was John Horgan who placed a four litre cask up against his wine and stated the tax regime incentive having the same tax applied to a premium 750ml bottle of wine! Tim, I suggest you get parochial about your state as a whole and recognise that Margaret River (WA Wine Industry) is a jewel in the worlds crown and presents a strong business case to open doors to business with a bottle, as a pinnacle of the quality of Western Australian family business'. If the French in St Emillion proposed to mine their beloved wine region, you would have a revolution on your hands! Suggest you read this article in SMH http://www.smh.com.au/national/price-of-cheap-wine-could-quadruple-20110607-1fr8d.html and get behind our industry to make positive change for quality and SME's.

Mildura
A sensitive issue but I read Tim's article to be about the wine industry not whether or not a coal mine would be better than wine at Margaret River. The wine industry at grower level is being hung out to dry by processors and international marketing people. Input costs of growing grapes rises every year whereas returns to growers have been falling for atleast seven years; maybe this year will see a small price increase to growers but, how many years before price per tonne exceeds costs of production? The industry is still propped up by off-farm income to the wine growers' housholds. It is important to remember that as a primary industry diminishes the off-farm income opportunities also diminish as the local population diminishes when families move away for employment reasons and thus demand for all local services diminish: have a look at the warm-areas where small businesses and towns are dying. The wine industry is in serious trouble now, it is already too late to look for some future options for some people and communities; coal mining is probably not the right industry for Margaret River but, as for the wine industry across Australia something needs to change now not in two or three years time.

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