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The local label printing industry could receive a major boost in the new year, with China looking at ending its effective ban on Australian wine.

China on horizon: Wine labels

The Chinese ban, enabled two years ago through astronomic tariffs introduced as relations between Australia and China hit new lows, hit the wine industry hard, and label printers suffered as a consequence, with the $1.2bn annual exports in wine to China reduced to just $8.1m.

The number of bottles of Australian wine exported to China before the ban was approaching 100 million a year, each with a label printed locally. That  market has never been replaced. There were 2366 wine producers exporting to China in 2019, but today that figure is just 114. China was by far the biggest export market for Australian wine, importing more bottles than the UK, US and Canada combined.

Covid and supply issues restricted the ability of Australian wine producers to engage with new markets following the ban, leaving the country with its massive oversupply of wine. Since the Chinese ban, Australian wine exports have crashed by a third, which has left the local wine industry with the equivalent of 2.8 billion bottles of wine stored in giant vats around the country.

The wine label sector is one of the more lucrative for label printers, with vineyards often requesting elaborate embellishments, especially for the Chinese market where Australian wine is viewed as a premium product.

The current thawing of Sino-Australian relations, which saw an Australian journalist released last week, and prime minister Anthony Albanese heading to Beijing next month for the first top-level talks in seven years, has already seen the end of tariffs on barley and other products.

China and Australia have now agreed a five-month window for China to re-assess the wine tariffs, during which time the Australian case against the tariffs that has been winding its way through the World Trade Association court will be paused.

The local label printing industry will be hoping it will be raising a glass come February.

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