Wine Grapes Marketing Board to be discontinued, MP says it is only a technical clean up

The proposed axing of the Riverina Wine Grapes Marketing Board (WGMB) has rattled farmers in an already tough industry.

NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian announced the ‘Eliminating Duplication’ program this week, surprising growers and board members who had no idea it was coming. 

WGMB chief executive Brian Simpson said the announcement had been “poorly managed”.

“Concerned growers have been calling us to find out what’s going on,” Mr Simpson said.

“I’ve been trying to find out information from the minister’s office, we weren’t informed this was coming.”

Mr Simpson said he had been told verbally the change was just administrative and “everything will continue as normal”, but he hadn’t seen anything in writing yet.

The program will see 227 boards and committees across the state discontinued, merged or integrated into departments in the hopes of saving taxpayers $40 million each year.

However, WGMB chief executive Brian Simpson said the Griffith-based board was funded entirely by grape growers and might even save money once ties with the state are severed.

“We will see some savings without the requirement for state government auditing,” Mr Simpson said.

“It could be about $20,000 per year of growers’ funds saved.”

The move adds to uncertainty surrounding the future of the wine industry with low grape prices and high water prices prompting some growers to rip out their vines completely.

A grape grower, who asked not to be named, said wineries were paying hundreds below what growers needed.

“It all depends on varieties and yields, but both white and red grape prices are too low,” he said. 

“Increases of $50 and $80 per tonne don’t cut the mustard, a lot of growers haven’t been making money for years.”

Member for Murray Adrian Piccoli said there was no need for panic.

“None of its functions or responsibilities will change,” he said. 

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