RIVERINA grape growers expect fruit to wither on vines if the government holds firm on the controversial backpacker tax.
Originally slated to begin on July 1, the backpacker tax will ditch the $18,200 tax-free threshold for foreign workers under 30 and instead tax them 32.5¢ from the first dollar they earn in Australia.
Local farmers have been in limbo since the $500 million savings measure was announced during the federal election campaign and promptly shelved pending a review.
Griffith-based Casella Family Brands, maker of Australia's biggest selling wine, Yellow Tail, employs 125 backpackers between January and April every year.
“Our email traffic asking about vintage positions is 90 per cent down on last year,” human resources manager Sue Molyneaux said.
“We’ve begun advertising four weeks earlier than normal because we’re worried about the level of interest.
“News of the backpacker tax has spread right across the world.”
Riverina Wine Grapes Marketing Board CEO Brian Simpson claimed the backpacker tax “could really delay harvest period”.
“Less workers to bring the crop in when the grapes are mature might mean wineries will have to slow harvest down,” Mr Simpson said.
“A prolonged harvest means reduced yields, grapes start to shrivel on vines,which has a big impact on quality.
“They'll have to pay more to entice local labour and we’re hoping they can move that extra cost on to the consumer, but that’s difficult to do.”