An eight-week Nuffield Scholarship tour of countries as diverse as Singapore, Qatar and France has provided Luke Mancini with some insightful and eye opening experiences that has prompted him to reconsider what he hopes to bring back to Riverina from his upcoming individual trip to the United States.
He will still focus on alternative varieties when he spends a week in California later this month, but his interest now will have as great an emphasis on the commercial aspect of selling and valuing grapes as on shaping future decisions about what varieties to plant.
‘Coming back from the first trip I’ve realised there are a lot of moving parts to the wine sector and a lot more things that I still want to understand about growing grapes and getting them to market’, he said.
‘What I do know is that of all the things that I’m involved with now, whether it be wheat, barley, cotton or maize, it’s the wine sector and selling wine grapes that is very much about trust.’
The forthcoming trip will also take him to Texas, where he’ll visit farms that have a similar mix of agricultural interests to the Mancini property at Whitton, about halfway between Griffith and Leeton.
Like most wine sector Nuffield Scholars before him, Luke found the group tour with colleagues from a diverse range of industries to be intense and exhausting, but ‘incredibly insightful’ – from meeting senior bankers and Monsanto executives to learning more about the significance of halal meat or marvelling at grass growing in the Qatari desert that he estimates needed about 240 megalitres of water per hectare.
It all played a part in giving him a clearer picture of how agriculture works around the world, how Australia compares, and what new ideas are out there.
‘One thing that did blow my mind in India was the commitment to renewable energy; I think that’s one thing where we really need to do better as a country’, he said. ‘In the middle of nowhere you’d see a guy growing maize, with dairy cattle alongside and a little digester out the back – feeding in manure and harnessing some kind of energy. He’s actually doing it.
‘Another thing that struck me is that everywhere we went – whether they would want to admit it or not – somewhere along the line in their production chain, they are supported by some sort of subsidy. That’s not the case in Australia, for a variety of reasons.
‘I’m not saying we need handouts in Australia. It’s just good to know that we can compete on the world stage, though it’s becoming more difficult, without some kind of farm deal or common agricultural policy. We still have to pay for our water and the government is not holding our hand.’
Nuffield Scholarships in the wine sector are supported by Wine Australia. Applications for scholarships commencing in 2018 close on 16 June 2017. Details are available at www.nuffield.com.au.