How Bushfires Harm Economy As Wineries Are Razed And Restaurants Close

Posted: Dec 23, 2019

The bushfire crisis could have a lasting impact on Australia's economy, experts have warned.

Restaurants have been closed due to smoke, vineyards have been destroyed and hundreds of homes have been razed to the ground already this season.

Some experts warn the destruction could be so damaging for the economy that it pushes growth to negative.

Industry leaders have warned about the long term impact the current bushfire crisis could have on the economy (firefighters picture a Grose Valley battling a massive blaze)

Vineyards in the Adelaide Hills (pictured) could take years to fully recover from last week's destructive bushfires after more than 1000 hectares were razed by bushfire

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox told The Australian the fires could significantly harm the economy.

'These fires have the potential to knock GDP lower, but we cannot quantify exactly how much of a drop is likely,' Mr Willox said.

'With GDP growth already very weak in the third quarter of 2019 (just 0.4 per cent for the quarter and 1.7 per cent for the year), it would not take much to knock GDP into a negative in the fourth quarter, for example, due to port and airport disruptions to import and export volumes.'

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman confirmed shops and restaurants in Sydney had been impacted by smoke pervading the city.

'It has been tough. Obviously dining would be affected by it but I think the other area that would be affected will be the strip shop rather­ than the shopping centre,' he said.

Parts of the South Australian wine valley have already been devastated by bushfires and serve as an example of the long term impacts wildfires can have.

Vineyards in the Adelaide Hills could take years to fully recover from last week's destructive bushfires.

However growers have vowed to continue production in the renowned wine region.

More than 1000 hectares of vines were damaged or lost in the fire, which destroyed at least 86 homes and almost 500 other buildings.

Chief executive of the South Australian Wine Industry Association Brian Smedley said the long-term impact of the blaze would depend on the condition of individual vineyards.

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman confirmed shops and restaurants in Sydney had been negatively impacted by the bushfires (another huge blaze pictured burning out of control in the Blue Mountains)

He said some vines may be able to regenerate, while a full replanting could be necessary in other situations, but the fires were certain to have an effect on the availability of wine.

'There will be less Adelaide Hills wine, simply by the nature of what happened,' he said.

'It will take a number of vintages before production returns to what it was.'

Mr Smedley said winemakers might have to look elsewhere for fruit, which could drive demand and prices up, though in some cases there can be no substitute.

'If you have a claim on the bottle that you're going to be producing Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, that might not be possible,' he said.

'You might have to make a more generic wine into the future until the vines have recovered.'

He said fire damage may present growers the opportunity to change aspects of their production, such as the variety of their grape.

Among the affected wineries are Tilbrook Estate, Vinteloper, Barristers Block, Tomich Wines, Golding Wines and Anderson Hill.

James Tilbrook said his vineyard and winery was gone as well as wine stock, barrels, equipment and multiple sheds, but he would push ahead to this year's vintage.

'I am sure with all the offers of support we'll be able to make some wine,' he said.

'The next target is to get the wine in bottle.

'Once we have wine again we are back in business.'

Vinteloper, owned by David Bowley, posted on its Instagram account that the bushfires had been 'the worst day in our history'.

'I am completely broken,' the post read.

By Adam McCleery
December 23, 2019

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