3 Mar 2010

Wine industry keeps eye on 2010 harvest

7:45 am on 3 March 2010

A new survey shows New Zealand wineries remain more profitable than their Australian counterparts.

The Deloitte's financial benchmarking survey of the sector's 2009 financial performance included the bumper 2008 vintage.

Deloitte's corporate finance partner, Paul Munro, says although it found the local industry was more profitable than Australia's, it could be a different story this year.

The 2010 grape harvest has begun and the New Zealand Winegrowers' annual pre-vintage survey estimates it will yield between 265,000 and 285,000 tonnes of grapes.

That is only slightly smaller than the 2009 vintage of about 285,000 tonnes.

"To make sure that that doesn't impact on profits there's going to need to be a lot of work done to make sure that the product is shifted into the right markets, with the right branding to attract those premium prices," Mr Munro says.

New Zealand Winegrowers' Chief executive, Philip Gregan, says the industry is trying to closely match harvests with demand.

"We would certainly like to see it down near the bottom of the range, at around 265,000 tonnes and that would be our strong preference."

But Mr Gregan warns that the incredibly competitive local and international market will not necessary translate to increased prices.

"The global financial crisis has had a big impact on the wine industry. So it's going to be very difficult to raise prices in the year ahead," he says.

"I think our first step is to make sure that they don't fall further and then use that as a basis for increasing them in the future."

Meanwhile, wine producers Delegats experienced a 12% drop in its half year profit to $18.8 million dollars.

It expects the supply glut to result in lower grape prices for the 2010 harvest, and is forecasting its full year profit could be about 40% below the $30 million of last year.