Chilean wine growers in protest

Angry Chilean winemakers have taken to the streets in protest at the low grape prices being offered by the country’s big wineries.

Claiming that grape prices have in some cases halved since last year, the disgruntled growers descended on Curicó, central Chile, during the town’s annual harvest festival last weekend.

Around 50 protestors disrupted proceedings with whistles and drums, waving placards bearing such messages as, ‘they ask us for quality and pay us for rubbish’ and ‘small growers need the government’s help’.

The message was even spelt out in the skies with protestors using a light aircraft to tow a similar banner message over the town.

The protestors are aiming to put pressure on Chilean agriculture minister Alvaro Rojas, who attended the event.

With the Chilean harvest getting into full swing in March and April, some more militant growers are refusing to sign contracts and threatening to leave fruit on the vine.

The root cause of the dispute is falling profits due to currency fluctuations over the past year. The Chilean peso has surged in strength due to booming copper exports and prices, leaving the dollar’s value foundering. As Chile’s wineries are predominantly export-focused, the majority of the industry’s earnings are in dollars, which has meant a fall in profits, in some cases estimated to be as high as 30-50%.

As a result, most wineries are looking to cut costs by lowering grape prices.

Written by Peter Richards