Australia’s plethora of small wineries - 1465 at the official count last year - have been warned of the risks in pursuing export sales in an independent report commissioned by the Federal Government.

The report by ACIL Consulting was released at an industry conference in the South Australian capital, Adelaide, today. ACIL managing director David Trebeck presented it, saying that, in trying to double the number of exporters by 2006, Australia should recognise it would not always be able to judge whether this was right for small and medium size wineries.

Exporting was hard work, expensive and even if success was achieved, credibility was short lived if sufficient stocks were not available to service customers.

As well as continuity of supply, individual promotions should be combined with the overall brand Australia message. Powerful vested interests in Europe felt threatened by Australian wine exports and were actively working to drive them out of the market, Andrew Fraser of the London School of Economics told the conference.

European wine production subsidies had risen from €615m three years ago to €1.27 billion this year. “If anything, the protection of the industry is getting more fierce,” Fraser said. “Australia’s on the high ground and I don’t think you can afford to lose this battle. The next year will be very, very critical. Your European position will underpin your global status,” Fraser added.