Australian wine production will fall by 3% in the 2005 harvest now under way, according to a national forecaster.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) expects a 1.83m tonne crush, lower than that earlier predicted by growers and wineries, as a result of weather conditions. The 2004 vintage was 1.9m tonnes.

However, ABARE also predicted that, over the next two years, grape production would increase by 5% to 1.93m tonnes mainly as a result of increased plantings of white varieties. ABARE said there was little scope for higher prices for independent growers in 2005.

The Bureau also noted that, of the 1,800 estimated producers in Australia, the top 22 companies accounted for 97% of the crush.