Glass half full for wineries

STANTHORPE wine grower Tim Coelli describes this season as "excellent", producing the largest crop at his Twisted Gum vineyard in six years.

It's a sentiment echoed by many Granite Belt growers as high yields translate to increased production.

And, in what is a serious case of glass half-full good fortune, the positives at farm level have coincided with a drop in the Australian dollar, which is forecast to settle at US$0.88 by the end of the year.

The fall in the dollar brings with it an increase on the domestic tourism front - welcome news for Southern Downs cellar door operators - and adds to the cost of importing wines.

"We are really pleased in terms of the season, which has been excellent, it's our largest crop in six years," Mr Coelli said.

"And three months ago we opened our own cellar door and the public response has been exceptional.

"There are now more than 40 cellar doors across the Granite Belt and at the moment visitor numbers are high."

Summit Estates cellar door manager Eugene Paramonoff also welcomed the better season and rise in tourists.

"We had difficult years in 2010 and 2011 because it was too wet and the grapes didn't grow," Mr Paramonoff said.

"We had a severe rain event in early January but it was fine through until March and that was what we needed.

"So we have been able to bottle extra this year after two very limited seasons."

He said the fact increased production coincided with a falling Australian dollar

helped improve the industry outlook.

"I think the future looks very positive for our local wine industry," Mr Paramonoff said.

The latest Agribusiness Rural Commodities Wrap from the National Australia Bank also points to the 2013 vintage being superior to recent years, although still early stages of production.

NAB report forecasts the Australian dollar will settle at US$0.88 by the end of 2013. NAB head of agribusiness Neil Findlay said the falling dollar, coupled with the good season, injected some long awaited optimism into the Australian wine sector.

"Our wine industry is heavily export-dependent, with two-thirds of production going overseas, so it's good to see some positive momentum in the sector," Mr Findlay said.

Globally, wine consumption is forecast to grow by 5% between 2012 and 2016.

By then, wine sales in China are expected to have increased by 50%, to overtake France and become the second biggest wine consuming country in the world, behind the United States.

"Globally, wine production has been recovering from oversupply and surplus levels in the early 2000s, which weighed heavily on prices," Mr Findlay said.

According to Wine Australia, export volumes increased in 2012, but domestically Australian wine has faced strong competition from imports.

Sales of Australian white and red wine fell by 2% and 0.8%, compared to increased sales of 20.1 and 19.4% for imported varieties.

Wine Australian data shows sauvignon blancs from the Marlborough region in New Zealand accounted for eight of the top 10 selling white wines domestically.

"Australia has a proud history of quality wine production," Mr Findlay said.

"So a weaker Australian dollar should provide support to both domestic and export sales.

"This should further reduce inventory stocks and provide a boost to prices and profit margins."

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