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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Nicolas Belfrage MW & Franco Ziliani

The Chianti Classico Consortium has asked the European Union to investigate claims that Australian exporters have been dumping' wines in the EU at below cost price. According to the Chianti Classico Consortium's director, Giuseppe Liberatore, legitimate doubts exist as to whether the exponential growth of Australian wine on some markets, particularly in Germany, has been achieved with unfair practices. Between May 2002 and May 2003 - a period when Italian wine sales to Germany fell heavily - exports of Australian wines to Germany rose by 83%, aided by a reduction in the average price of 31%, to e1.60 per litre. The Tuscans maintain that this export burst came about as a result of a cartel between the principal Australian exporters, seeking to create a situation of commercial imbalance between their products and those of their European competitors. The cartel agreement is alleged to have been facilitated by the fact that, in Australia, 90% of production and almost all exports are controlled by 20 out of a total of 1,600 producers. The alleged over-aggressive commercial practice adopted by the Australians in Germany has, according to Liberatore, also been adopted, if more subtly, in Switzerland, Holland, Denmark and Sweden, markets in which Australian wines are not yet established. The average price per litre of Australian wine varies from e1.6-2.4, compared with an average production price which, by the Australians' own admission (Federation of Australian wine enterprises), is nearly e3.5. In the UK, which accounts for almost 50% of Australia's exports, and the USA, where Aussie wines have increased by 60% in the first four months of the year, prices have largely remained unchanged.