Marlborough grapegrowers have more money in their pockets following bumper harvest

Caythorpe Family Estate grower Simon Bishell raises a glass to increased grape prices.
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

Caythorpe Family Estate grower Simon Bishell raises a glass to increased grape prices.

Marlborough grapegrowers have had their most profitable harvest in more than five years.

Caythorpe Family Estate grower Simon Bishell said strong demand for Marlborough wine overseas and favourable exchange rates had resulted in higher grape prices.

New Zealand Winegrowers had not released their official numbers, but Bishell estimated the average price for sauvignon blanc grapes would have been around $1800 per tonne.

This was the best return for growers since the high water mark of 2008, when wine companies were paying around $2500 for a tonne of sauvignon blanc grapes, he said.

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That year the market was swamped with grapes, which combined with the global financial crisis, resulted in a severe downturn for growers, with the price bottoming out around $1100 per tonne in 2010.

Having a better year this season meant growers could cover any debts they might have incurred during the downturn and start investing more in their vineyards, Bishell said.

"Most growers are feeling buoyant and confident about the future," he said.

"They have confidence in the industry."

Following the glut of grapes in 2008, wine companies starting imposing caps on growers so they did not exceed market demand.

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The growing demand for Marlborough wine overseas meant these were not as restrictive this harvest, which meant growers could sell more and at higher prices, Bishell said.

This was also good news for the region, as grapegrowers would have more money to spend on farming equipment and in retail stores, he said.

However, Bishell warned against people getting greedy and growing more fruit than wine companies could take.

The balance between supply and demand was a "knife's edge" and growers needed to be cautious to avoid flooding the market with grapes and dropping prices again, he said.

Wine Marlborough chief executive Clive Jones said growers would have either picked more or got a higher price this harvest, so their incomes should be up.

This was good news for Marlborough, as the increased demand for wine from the region was a testament to its quality, he said.

 - The Marlborough Express

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