Chinese tariffs a huge threat to small wineries

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China's exorbitant tariffs on Australian wine are threatening to wipe out small, independent winemakers, industry advocates say.

With many small growers and wineries impacted by last summer's bushfires and the pandemic, the tariff hike of up to 212 per cent could be the final nail in the coffin.

A survey of 65 independent wineries in South Australia found almost half were worried about the future of their business, compared to only 25 per cent last year.

“2020 has been the most disruptive year in recent history for South Australia's wine industry,” South Australian Wine Industry Association chief executive Brian Smedley said.

“COVID-19 and China investigations into anti-dumping have followed a series of environmental setbacks, generating uncertainty and making planning for the future more difficult.”

Western Australian winemaker Byron & Harold has been devastated by the tariffs, and now faces laying off staff in the middle of a pandemic and economic downturn.

“The Chinese Government's decision to pre-emptively impose crippling tariffs on Australian wineries has knocked our business for six,” owner Ralph Dunning said.

“Practically overnight, we have lost at least 50 per cent of our turnover.”

Rosenthal winemaker Coby Ladwig said the timing of the tariffs made "a dire situation even worse".

“Having this hit us just before Christmas is very tough.”

The heartbreak of growers and winemakers has prompted industry figures to issue a plea for Australians to buy big from local, independent sources over the festive season.

“There is a very real danger that many local winemakers will become collateral damage in this situation and be left without a leg to stand on,” Naked Wines Australia managing director Alicia Kennedy said.

“They're understandably very concerned they'll be driven to the wall by retailers dropping or bartering down their contracts to take advantage of cheaper sources.

“As an industry and as a nation, we need to band together now to ‘stop the squeeze’ on Australia's wonderful community of independent winemakers.”