Wine exports on the up and up

GERARD HUTCHING
Last updated 05:00 12/06/2014

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Wine exports are tipped to earn $1.54 billion in two years.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said wine export volumes to the end of this month are expected to reach 190 million litres, but based on a record 2014 vintage of 445,000 tonnes, the volume exported next year should hit 220m litres.

The figures are included in the just-published report Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries.

New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan forecast the volume exported next year could be even greater than 220m litres, since that figure had been reached based on an earlier forecast tonnage of 420,000.

Wine exports are the eighth largest export earner and have grown in value by $1b in the past 10 years. The main drinkers of the wine are Australians (31 per cent), Americans (24 per cent) and Britons (22 per cent).

Exporters get $7.10 a litre, on average, for their wine, but that is forecast to fall to $6.60 a litre in the short term. Gregan said this reflected the fact that the quantity of exports processed as bulk wines would rise from 29 per cent to 35 per cent.

Wine growers could expect another bumper crop in the 2014-15 season, he said. "Vines run on an 18-month cycle, so warm conditions in December 2013 have set the vines up for a better-than-average flowering and vintage in 2015."

This year's 445,000-tonne vintage surpasses the 2013 figure of 345,000, itself a record. For the first time Nelson, Waipara and Central Otago have exceeded 10,000 tonnes.

Meanwhile, the ministry's director of the primary growth partnership programme, Justine Gilliland, has announced the signing of a research agreement between 15 wineries and the Government.

This will help hasten a move into lower-calorie, lower-alcohol "lifestyle" wines. The industry will invest $8.84m and the government $8.13m over seven years in a programme aimed to make New Zealand the world leader in the niche sector. By 2023 it is expected to return $285m a year.

The programme aimed to capitalise on market-led opportunities domestically and globally, Gregan said.

Research showed an increasing proportion of consumers were making buying decisions around their lifestyles, such as choosing healthier foods and lower-alcohol wines.

"Our challenge now is not just producing high-quality lower-alcohol and lower-calorie wines but producing them naturally - this will give New Zealand a point of difference."

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