Home' Grower : June 2013 Contents The South Australian Grower -- June 2013
SA tablegrape growers
hold 'unique' advantage
By MAX OPRAY
IN the shadow of larger-scale
operations in Victoria, table-
grape growers in South
Australia are struggling to stay
SA delegate for the Table Grape
Industry Advisory Committee
David Agg says things are not
always like this.
When he first started growing at
his Barmera property 32 years
ago, table grapes were all the rage
in SA, while Victoria's industry
was not nearly as big as it is today.
"About two decades ago, during
the wine boom, ever yone here
switched to wine varieties," he
"There used to be between 20
and 30 (table grape) growers back
then, but they've mostly dropped
dozen in SA these days."
Although Mr Agg had dipped
his toes in the wine grape market,
he is one of the few to have kept
table varieties as his primary focus.
He now oversees 14 hectares of
table grapes compared to 4ha of
As the SA tablegrape scene dissi-
pated, Victoria surged ahead,
stepping-up production from
26,840 tonnes in 1994-95 to
57,823t in 2010-11, primarily in
the Mildura region.
Mr Agg says this larger scale of
production has a number of
advantages, allowing bigger cool
rooms, larger handling facilities,
and a wide range of freight
"Here in SA, with freight, Harris
are a bit of a monopoly -- they are
the only ones who go direct to
Sydney," he said.
"They do provide good ser vice,
but you pay for it -- their rates
doubled in three years, well over
$300 a pallet to get to Sydney,
when Mildura does not pay half
Victoria's bigger scale of opera-
tions gives it an obvious advan-
tage on SA but what caused this
expansion in the first place is a
little less clear.
Mr Agg says a number of factors
"They have a predominantly
Italian table grape growing com-
munity, usually third or fourth-
generation family farms that have
been doing this a long time and
are attuned to growing table
grapes," he said.
"There's also plenty more in the
way of government support --
Mildura was a marginal seat for a
while so that helped growers over
"Here in SA, however, the table
grape growing regions are safe
seats -- the government used to
support three Loxton-based staff
doing research and development,
but since parties aren't fighting
for our vote here the funding for
that fell through."
Deputy chairman of the
Australian Table Grape
Association John Argiro, a
Sunraysia-based grower himself,
agrees that the Victorian table
grape industry owes a lot to its
"We have a lot of very tradition-
al, family-orientated Italian grow-
ers that have made a success of
table grapes here," he said.
"I had a go at wine grapes, but
we simply were never getting the
money here that they did in South
Australia, so it just wasn't worth it
for a lot of people.
He disputes the idea that
Victorian growers enjoy more
government support and says SA
growers have a unique advantage
up their sleeves.
"There is great opportunity for
South Australia with table grapes,
because of its fruit fly-free status -
there's no reason it couldn't be a
goer over there," he said.
Back in the Riverland, Mr Agg is
well aware of how important it is
for SA to remain fruit fly free.
While Victoria's move away from
efforts to eradicate fruit fly has
many growers fearing outbreaks
from across the border, he sees it
as an opportunity for the State.
It also helps SA's export
prospects at a crucial time, with a
number of new markets opening
up for Australian grapes.
Countries previously reluctant to
import Australian grapes because
of the fruit fly threat have been
reassured by a recently-verified
way of disinfecting grapes -- cold
This will open up lucrative mar-
kets such as Japan, which accord-
ing to Mr Agg, is of particular
advantage to SA because of the
State's fruit fly-free status.
Details: Australian Table Grape
Association 03 5021 5718 or
The tablegrape industry says South Australia can take greater advantage
of its fruitfly-free status to grab more market share.
Local growers focus on wine
Vic competitors enjoy econ-
omy of scale
offers ray of hope
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