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One in 10 B.C. wineries, grape growers at risk of closing due to COVID-19 pandemic: survey

Click to play video: 'BC Wine Institute reveals survey results that paint bleak outlook for industry hit hard by pandemic'
BC Wine Institute reveals survey results that paint bleak outlook for industry hit hard by pandemic
BC Wine Institute reveals survey results that paint bleak outlook for industry hit hard by pandemic – Oct 2, 2020

Most of B.C.’s wineries and grape growers have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, according to a new survey.

In a report, the B.C. Wine Institute said 83 per cent of survey respondents said they suffered some sort of hit from the pandemic, and that one in 10 of them are at risk of closing.

Of that 83 per cent, 20 per cent said they were extremely negatively impacted, while 63 per cent said they had felt a somewhat negative impact.

However, eight per cent of respondents said they’d had no impact at all, and nine per cent said COVID-19 has had an extremely positive impact.

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“It’s imperative that we understand the full effects of the pandemic on our industry to ensure we’re successful in the recovery phase,” institute CEO Miles Prodan said.

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“Although the long-term financial impacts may not be fully realized, we believe this is a first step in identifying key areas where critical, lasting solutions and government policy are required for the successful recovery of the industry.”

Sixty-six per cent of wineries and grape growers also believe it will take one to four years to financially recover, the survey suggests. Thrity-five per cent of respondents said they expect revenue to decline between 21 and 50 per cent during the next six months.

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Notably, 49 per cent said they experienced significantly decreased demand for their product.

“For growers, access to labour is always an issue, and with border closures and quarantine regulations, this has been more challenging than ever,” John Bayley of Blasted Church Vineyards in Okanagan Falls said.

“We have incurred greater expenses this year in maintaining the labour support we rely on from our colleagues from Mexico.”

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Direct sales increased 41 per cent, but that was more than offset by lower sales to the hospitality industry (69 per cent) and liquor stores (41 per cent).

“Obviously, for smaller wineries who depend on restaurant and wine shop sales, and many of them do, they’re going to feel the effects more immediately,” said Kathy Malone, a winemaker at Hillside Winery in Penticton.

“But for others, it may take until the end of the season to fully understand the effects industry-wide.”

To view the survey, click here.

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