SA uncorks support to bolster wine exports to China

Jack Gramenz |

Australian wine could soon be back on the shelves in China after the lifting of punitive tariffs.
Australian wine could soon be back on the shelves in China after the lifting of punitive tariffs.

South Australian winemakers are being urged to re-engage with China after the country lifted tariffs on Australian wine that inflicted pain on the local industry.

The tariffs, introduced in 2020, were abolished on Thursday when the Commerce Ministry in Beijing revealed they were “no longer necessary” following a review in October.

Premier Peter Malinauskas on Saturday announced a $1.85 million support package, including marketing, advisory and technical assistance, to help the state’s winemakers return exports to their pre-tariff peaks.

“We know that the tariffs have caused a lot of pain … that pain is everywhere in the wine industry,” he said.

“China has finally relieved the Australian wine industry of its punitive tariffs.”

South Australia is in a race with other states to re-engage with the market and it was hoped the government’s support would help local producers win, Mr Malinauskas said.

Governor Frances Adamson, a former ambassador to China, will also be in the country spruiking South Australian wine in April.

Exporting wine to mainland China was a growing industry worth more than $1.1 billion at the end of 2019, when Australia sent more than 135 million litres.

But it had dropped to about 1.4 million litres, worth just over $10 million at the end of 2023, according to Wine Australia’s export data.

Mr Malinauskas travelled to China with winemakers to press the case for tariff relief in September, before beginning work on the support package to re-engage in the market once the tariffs were lifted.

The end of the tariffs was of fundamental importance for businesses in the wine industry, which makes up a significant part of the state’s economy.

“The decision to lift the Chinese wine tariffs now gives the South Australian wine industry the chance to be able to get access to the world’s biggest market,” Mr Malinauskas said.

While the Chinese market was too big to ignore, the tariffs issue spurred a more mature engagement with other markets as winemakers diversified.

Primary Industries Minister Clare Scriven said the enthusiasm for South Australian wine in China was palpable when she visited two weeks ago, despite other countries trying to fill the void.

“The feedback I had inform me when I was in China … was their wine is not as good as ours,” Ms Scriven said.

“This package means that we’re able to maximise the opportunities in China for our grape growers and winemakers going forward.”

Some relationships needed re-establishing while the package also hoped to encourage exchange between South Australian producers and Chinese importers and distributors, Ms Scriven said.

The $1.85 billion package includes more than $1 million for marketing activities and campaigns, industry events in China, and reciprocal visits.