B.C. wine growers are again calling for more government help after devastating cold weather and disease wiped out more than half of this year’s crop.
It’s estimated it will cost up to $317 million to replant vines.
“The challenges facing grape growers and winemakers today are unlike anything we have experienced in the past,” remarks BC Wine Grape Council chair Ross Wise. “Climate change disasters along with increased incidence of virus and disease pressure are threatening the economic viability of our industry and we need funding in order to combat these major issues.”
The council recently commissioned a report that outlines the kind of financial support they are seeking to ensure the future success of the industry.
Cascadia Partners worked with the council and Wine Growers British Columbia (WGBC) on the 'Opportunities Assessment for the BC Grape and Wine Industry’ study. It provides empirical insights into the replant needs in British Columbia:
- 29% of the industry’s 12,681 acres are estimated to have succumbed to winter damage
- 30% are estimated to suffer from permanent viral disease and require replanting to avoid mass spreading
- In total, between 3,814 and 7,492 acres need to be replanted in BC
- Average re-establishment cost per acre is $42,360
- Estimated costs associated with the replant are between $162 million and $317 million
Earlier this year, a winter bud damage report projected vineyard crop loss of 54% across the board. That equates to a 20% reduction in vineyard and winery employment (totalling 381 lost jobs), $133 million decrease in the total revenues of vineyards and wineries and $100 million reduction in government tax revenues. It also has had an economic impact on wine tourism-related hospitality and accommodation businesses.
While the B.C. government added grapes to its perennial replant program this year, the program was quickly over-subscribed and ran out of money, said Miles Prodan, president and CEO of Wine Growers British Columbia.
“To have grapes included, wine grapes included in a replant program was a positive step for us but now we’ve got a finite number as to exactly the extent of what we’re going to need for support to get the job done,” he said.
The industry is looking for a comparable government investment to what was seen 35 years ago, after the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“While the challenges being faced right now are unprecedented, this is not the first time that the B.C. wine industry has faced such a crisis,” said Christa-Lee McWatters, Wine Growers BC board chair.
“In the early 1990s, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) dramatically transformed the competitive environments for local producers when industry and all levels of government came together and delivered the cost-shared Grape and Wine Adjustment Assistance Program (GWAAP) that transformed the B.C. wine industry into a producer of truly unique, high-quality wine and laid the foundation for more than 30 years of growth.”
Prodan says the economic return on that investment has proven itself to be multi-fold. What they’re looking for now is a cost-sharing program to help finance the replant.
“We’re asking for government support over three years that would allow us to sort of strategically step out what it is we need to plant, where it is we need to plant. A lot of that is covered off in the report from the Wine Grape Council–sortof some of the parameters around what the replant would look like,” he explained.
He is hoping more relief will be announced very soon.
“We know we need it and we need it as quickly as we can to get ready for the spring, because Mother Nature does not stop.”