Nelson Marlborough Farming - Another successful harvest

Columns
Monday, May 2, 2016

The 2016 grape harvest is coming to a close, and by all accounts it has been a dream run, in Marlborough at least.

The hot summer, while challenging for pastoral farmers, has been very beneficial for grape growers in Marlborough, however it was more challenging in Nelson.

The larger than expected crop forced some Marlborough wineries to seek help from Nelson counterparts that had surplus capacity.  Despite this there will be grapes left on the vines as wine companies impose yield caps, due to the lack of processing and market capacity.

It’s a lesson we learned back in 2008, when a larger than expected harvest resulted in a significant marketing challenge to sell the wine without impacting on the New Zealand wine industries hard won international reputation.

This forced adjustments within the industry that have proven beneficial.

The events of 2008 necessitated growers to re-adjust their focus from quantity to quality, and created a drive to reduce tonnage in bumper years as we are seeing now.

Like any business, the wine industry has to look to the long term sustainability of their industry, and that means carefully managing their supply and demand.

It’s a balancing act for sure, but the statistics show the industry is getting it right: Since 2008, New Zealand wine exports have grown almost 8%. Most of our wine went to the EU, US and Australia.

This growth is occurring at a higher rate than a number of other key industries. In the same time frame, dairy grew 3.3%, meat 4.1%, fruit 6.9% and wood 7.1%.

Wine, our 6th largest export commodity, contributed export sales revenue of $1.536 billion last year – up from $1.202 billion in 2012.

What this means for New Zealanders is jobs. Last year, the sector pumped $280m directly into Kiwi households. Marlborough, with 535 of New Zealand’s 762 grape growers, naturally made a large contribution to that figure.

In Marlborough, the wine sector contributed 10.1% of employment (that’s 2240 jobs). The industry’s great significance to the region is highlighted when compared to fellow major wine producing region Hawkes Bay, where wine contributed 1.3% of employment and in Otago just 0.7%.

The wine industry’s contribution to the national economy goes beyond just selling the product. It is also a major part of our tourist industry: Last year, 20% of all international tourists – that’s over 550,000 - visited a winery and spent $2.8 billion here. In general, wine tourists tend to spend more than non-wine tourists.

So well done on another fantastic harvest. I look forward to sampling the 2016 vintage wines.