India-Australian Wine Regulatory Forum- a Step Forward for Wine in India
While the Treaty signed in April 2022 became operational on 30 December, 2022, the Australian government and industry body Australia Grape and Wine had been preparing this visit to India to meet various stakeholders for a long-term collaboration. After a short trip to Nashik where they met producers and visited wineries before arriving in Delhi for the 2-day Seminar, named India- Australia Wine Regulatory Forum at Le Cirque Restaurant at the Leela.
The program seemed to be ambitious and focused on Regulatory norms and collaborative efforts. The organisers had to cover a lot of ground but the efficiency with which it was planned in collaboration with the Australian High Commission in Delhi and their Indian counterparts in the government, made it possible for them to cover a vast range of topic and take the spirit and essence of the treaty forward, without delving on the tariff aspect.
The programme started with Lee Mclean, CEO of Australian Grape & Wine (AGW), touching briefly on the purpose and aims of the Forum and giving a brief description of the organization, a trade association for Australia’s grape growers and wine producers, achieving policy, trade and business outcomes driving their industry forward. It is for the industry, by the industry and the first point of contact with the Government, through which the industry expresses its views on policy and funding issues. Members set the agenda and fund its activities. Membership is open to all Australian grape and wine producers.
Australian High Commissioner Hon Barry O’Farrell, a former New South Wales premier, welcomed the guests that included a contingent from Nashik, several wine experts and consultants from Australia and a smattering of other invitees like me. His Excellency extended a hearty welcome to all those present and said the FTA (ECTA in Australia) was an important treaty to increase wine exchange between the two countries bringing them closer, referring to the recent visit of PM Narendra Modi to Australia. He said India can learn from the mistakes Australia made. He said India was a big player from the Australian perspective and there were opportunities on both sides.
What followed were several presentations from Australians- that included Lee Mclean Paul Denny – Deptt of Agriculture and Fisheries, Rachel Triggs Head of ESG and Market Access- Australian Wines Regulation, John Southwell – Trade and Investment Commissioner- Austrade, Eric Wilkes-of Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) and Damien Griffante– Director, Strategy & International Affairs who conducted the programme super-efficiently, making sure that each session was interactive. Cooperation and collaboration was the underlying theme..
Indian contingent also presented the current state of wine industry in India with Ashwin Rodrigues of Wine Growers Association of India and Karan Vasani and Dr. Neil Fernandes, The top Winemakers of Sula Vineyards- the former focusing on the Rules and Regulations stifling the market and the latter duo speaking on the technical aspects and how Indian industry would see Australians helping India in the process. An excellent Presentation by Dr. Amit Sharma of FSSAI was a memorable highlight. He talked lucidly of the background and various aspects of the rules of FSSAI.
It was heartening to note from a Presentation that the wine industry started in the 1700s in Australia. The nation respects history but they are not bound by it. There are no rules around what people can plant or where or how much? There is a strong history of innovation in the 65 wine regions.
The Australians are keen to learn about the Indian wine market and the challenges with the government and consumers. They appear to favour collaboration with the Indian industry-going beyond the common perception that they want to simply increase wine sales in India. That’s why they had visited Nashik, being the core of Indian winemaking and met many producers and officials of the All India Wine Producers Association. The interest they took in the Indian Presentations showed they were here for the long haul. Thanks to the Treaty, they have been proactive and such steps will give them rich dividends.
The Government of India has been taking keen interest in the ‘wine collaboration’ and wine as a food product has already taken a big leap forward. It is certain that in times to come, this could be an important step for the take-off of the Indian wine industry.