China’s sudden slapping of tariffs on Australian wine exports first hit the news in November 2020, causing widespread devastation across our viticulture industry.
After over three months’ of trade restrictions, the true impact of the tariffs on the Australian wine industry has become evident thanks to statistics released by Wine Australia. The crippling tariffs, which were instigated after diplomatic tensions heightened between Australia and China due to an investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, cut off producers’ supplies to the huge Chinese market. By December, the value of wine exports to China had dropped to almost zero, while the total value of all wine exported to China for 2020 decreased by $1 billion.
The tariffs placed by China range from 107% to 212%, simply making exportation unviable for Australian producers. Many face the unique issue of having their wines simply sit there, waiting until the tariffs lift so they can sell their wines at a competitive price to what was Australia’s biggest wine market.
These restrictions add insult to injury after what has already been a tough period for Australian viticulture. The bushfires across the summer of 2019-2020 saw many producers lose acres of vineyard, while others saw their vines completely destroyed. Couple this with the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought with it economic hardship and restrictions that prevented their consumer base from injecting money into their vineyards, to illustrate a picture of how hard the Australian wine industry has been hit over the last two years.
Many producers in this billion-dollar industry will be impacted, with red wine makers in South Australia’s Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale set to bear the brunt of the tariffs due to popularity of their varietals in China. Larger producers will also feel the pinch, yet it will be the smaller importers, grape growers and regional communities who will suffer most from this sudden collapse. Years of advertising and education by Australian wine producers and industry groups will also be undone, meaning many winemakers will have to start from square one when the tariffs are lifted.
Amid all this doom and gloom, how can you, the wine lover, help?
The best way to show your support for the Australian wine industry is to buy local. Look for small producers, do your research into winemakers with Chinese imports and ask around to see if any fellow wine connoisseurs can recommend local labels that are struggling. Once you’ve found a wine producer to support, buy direct from their website or winery.
You can also buy from impacted independent winemakers thanks to Naked Wines Australia, who have launched a $5 million rescue fund to provide a marketplace for Australian winemakers to sell their wines.
Buy local – research local wineries with Chinese exports and buy a couple of bottles to drink or cellar to show your support