Australia’s wine export volume has declined for the first time in 12 years.

Shipments to the end of January 2008 totalled 769.7m litres compared with 770.2m litres in the 12 months to 31 January 2007.

A small 2007 crop, smaller inventories, a predicted small 2008 crop and a stronger Australian dollar combined to cause the decline, the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation has reported.

But the total value of exports increased 5% to AUS$3.54bn, the seventh successive month that the moving annual total has exceeded AUS$3bn.

The average price of a litre of wine also increased 5% driven by an increase in shipments of bottled wines, and a decrease in bulk wine shipments.

The UK remained the largest market, while volumes to the USA slipped by more than 10% in volume and 4.7% in value.

Of the 15 major markets, the Netherlands posted the largest increase in volume (94.9%, to 28.8m litres), and Finland the second largest (31%).

The AWBC has revised its forecast of a 1.22m tonne crop in the current vintage, which is running two to three weeks ahead of normal.

It is now forecasting a crop equal to or greater than the 2007 figure of 1.4m tonnes. This is mainly because of above average rainfall during November and December in many wine regions and, increased water allocations in the Riverina, Murray Darling-Swan Hill and Riverland regions.

Written by Chris Snow in Adelaide