The Australian wine group Southcorp has warned its contract grape growers they could lose their contracts if they fail to meet guidelines to protect the industry from long term damage from salinity.

Southcorp has extended an alliance with the Australian Conservation Found to lift water quality along the Murray-Darling river basin. The concern is twofold. River Murray salinity has become a top of the agenda Australian political and environmental priority and wine exporters are concerned that overseas salinity rules could impact on their sales.

Southcorp has 8000 hectares of its own vineyards mainly in cool climate regions but about 75% of its crush comes from 900 growers who depend on irrigation from the River Murray in south-eastern Australia.

The company is issuing guidelines to result in very low or salt free grapes. Growers who fail to meet the guidelines face the last resort sanction of having their contracts terminated.