Cumulus vineyards; Cumulus Wines

Wine industry classed as an essential service

March 26, 2020
By Alana House

Winemaking has been officially classed as an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Federal Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, has confirmed that winery operations, along with all agricultural industries, will continue regardless of what lock down restrictions are enacted in Australia.

Australian Grape & Wine chief executive Tony Battaglene said: “The Minister has been regularly meeting with the agriculture industries by telephone. Our most recent hook-up was [on Tuesday], where he made it very clear that the agriculture industries, including wine, were classed as an essential service.

“The state of the vintage situation in Australia is clearly understood, and with this, the need to keep grapes being harvested and processing plants operating.”

Minister Littleproud guaranteed that all aspects of production across primary industries – including the wine sector – will remain unaffected.

“Maintaining food production, access to workers, agricultural supply lines, transportation and logistics is absolutely critical and will not be affected by any of the measures aimed at curbing the virus’s spread,” he said.

Pernod Ricard’s fears allayed

Earlier this week, Pernod Ricard noted it could lose its entire 2019 vintage if the government closed down operations at vineyards during COVID-19.

Jacob's Creek; Pernod Ricard vineyards

Bryan Fry, chairman and chief executive of Pernod Ricard Winemakers, warned that enforced shutdowns of vineyards would be hugely damaging to the wine industry.

“We are in the midst of vintage at our Barossa Valley winery and have put in place unprecedented measures to protect the health of our staff, suppliers and customers,” Fry told The Australian.

“Winemakers get one opportunity a year to produce wine. That time is now.

“Any decisions that result in our winery operations having to cease will result in the loss of an entire year’s worth of production.

“The impact on jobs and exports would be catastrophic across the industry, particularly in regional communities.

“The industry has just emerged from a summer that delivered an unholy trinity of drought, fire and smoke taint — unnecessary restrictions are the last thing we need. We understand and support more stringent health protections at this time — but the least governments can do is allow Australians to buy and enjoy a wine, beer or spirit with their families over dinner during such a difficult period.”

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