Official annual Australian wine export statistics came with the proverbial good news and bad news.

The good news from the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation was that exports in 2003 grew 12% in volume to 525 million litres and 6% by value to A$2.4 billion (US$1.85 billion).

But the Corporation's export arm noted that growth in calendar 2003 was subdued compared with the outstanding levels of the previous seven years. In 2003 it was driven by red wine sales, table red now accounting for 61% of the total. Most significantly, it was also driven by sales to the US. Value of sales to the US accounted for 99% of value growth and 58% of volume increase.

The Corporation noted that during the year the Australian dollar had significantly strengthened against the three major currencies, the US dollar, pound sterling and Euro.

The Corporation's statistics, being historic, failed to take account of the latest surge in the local currency, up 33% in the past year and now trading above US77c with predictions that by the time of the Australian 2004 wine vintage, only weeks away, it could hit US80c.

The Corporation's statistics also showed that, despite the new importance of the US market and a softening of UK shipments, 3% up and 7% down respectively, the UK remains Australia's principal overall market with 39% of the total while the US is 29%.