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Australia 2011 harvest ‘too big’, says winemaker federation

The huge Australian harvest this year is 'out of step' with the realities of sustainable production, a senior executive has said.

Yields from the 2011 Australian and New Zealand harvests have exceeded all expectations.

Australia has recorded a larger crop than 2010 despite disease ravaging the country’s wine regions while New Zealand has announced another record-breaking vintage.

The estimated Australian crush of 1.63m tonnes is a 1% increase compared to 2010, representing another blow for the country’s producers, already battling with a wine glut and depressed prices.

Stephen Strachan, the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia chief executive, said, ‘The vintage is too big. It may seem harsh, given the year many people have had, to focus on the longer term rather than the demands of the present, but a harvest in excess of 1.6m tonnes is out of step with the realities of sustainable production and the market opportunity for premium Australian wine.’

Across the Tasman, New Zealand Winegrowers has reported the 2011 crop reached 328,000 tonnes, more than 40,000 tonnes higher than the record 2008 vintage, which caused massive oversupply problems and falling profitability.

However, industry bodies including New Zealand Winegrowers and Wine Marlborough are defending the larger than expected crop, suggesting it is needed to meet growing demand.

Marcus Pickens of Wine Marlborough, said, ‘I’m reassured that we have all learnt a lesson since 2008: don’t bring more fruit in than you can sell. The harvest is a lot bigger than the expected 310,000 tonnes but increasing export sales speak for themselves and our markets continue to grow.’

Written by Rebecca Gibb

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