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Federal help welcomed, but B.C. wine industry says replant money urgently needed

The full extent of the damage to grapevines won't be known until the spring but it's not looking good according to B.C. Grape Growers' Association.
The full extent of the damage to grapevines won't be known until the spring but it's not looking good according to B.C. Grape Growers' Association. Global News

A federal infusion of $177 million to Canada’s wine industry is appreciated, but immediate replant money would be immensely welcomed.

So says Miles Prodan, president and CEO of Wine Growers B.C.

Last week, the Ministry of Agriculture made the funding announcement, saying the Wine Sector Support program will help Canadian wineries improve their competitiveness and adapt to the challenges they face.

Click to play video: 'B.C. wine industry facing catastrophic crop losses'
B.C. wine industry facing catastrophic crop losses

“British Columbia has a long and rich tradition of growing grapes for wine and its reputation as a wine-growing region continues to flourish with award-winning labels and expanding production,” said the federal government.

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“According to the most recent statistics from the Wine Growers of B.C., the B.C. wine industry has an economic impact of over $3 billion annually and supports more than 14,000 jobs.

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“The wine industry also provides a big boost to tourism, attracting well over a million visitors to the province each year.”

According to the ministry, there are 365 wineries in B.C., and 207 received financial support since July 2022 via the Wine Sector Support program.

That number will certainly rise this year, as B.C.’s wine industry is still reeling from January’s cold snap. Orchardists say major crop losses will occur, possibly up to 90 per cent.

Click to play video: 'Severe cold snap causes catastrophic damage to B.C. grapes, report says'
Severe cold snap causes catastrophic damage to B.C. grapes, report says

“We’re always appreciative of any support we can get,” Prodan told Global News. “But the announcement is actually the renewal of a previous program and is not anything purposeful for the catastrophe we’ve been seeing in our vineyards for the last couple of years.

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“It’s really about replacing a bunch of tax excise tax that now is applicable to B.C. wines and Canadian wines.”

Prodan says governments of all levels need to address the crisis that the fruit and wine industry is facing.

“(The program) is not to help us replant the crops that we’ve lost,” he said, adding that help is needed to ensure crops can withstand wild climate swings.

“We’ve been working with the provincial government asking for replant money.”

Click to play video: 'Winefest brings hundreds of wines to Calgary'
Winefest brings hundreds of wines to Calgary

Prodan said that 35 years ago, when free trade was brought in, many grape growers tore out their vineyards and replanted, via government help, to make higher-quality wines.

“That investment back then has responded with a return of $3.72 billion in economic impact,” said Prodan. “So I think we can make a pretty compelling case for support with a replant program.

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“Just give us a chance to sort of restart and get going back to where we were before.”

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