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SA wine woes

Lockdown will have the SA wine industry reeling

Lockdown regulations are likely to maim the local wine industry and will have a severe impact beyond the next few weeks, says wine producers body, Vinpro.

Grape and wine production is one of the largest export-orientated agricultural value-chains, with a contribution of R49-billion to GDP.

Police Minister Bheki Cele announced that during the 21-day lockdown there would be no buying or selling of alcohol, nor the transport of liquor “between two points”.

Harvesting and cellar processes were also forbidden. However, on March 27 it was announced that the industry would be allowed to complete the harvesting process of wine grapes and the cellar procedures, as long as the necessary hygiene and safety of workers were maintained.

Rico Basson, MD of Vinpro, says the industry is extremely disappointed with the regulations. He says they contradict earlier verbal commitments from national departments, and has undertaken to lobby with government.

Catch 22 on exports

However, the export of wine, while not expressly forbidden, is hitting a glitch because of the ban on the transport of alcohol.

Maryna Calow, communications manager of Wosa, which markets SA’s wine exports, told Fin24 the industry continues to try to enable wine exports to take place during the lockdown period.

Wine marketing consultant, Emile Joubert, says that the coronavirus pandemic could not have happened at a worse time for the South African wine industry.

The wine harvest started in January and the local industry got ready to go and showcase what it has to offer at the largest wine show in the world – ProWein in Germany in March.

“The SA wine industry was confident that ProWein 2020 would be a game changer for the local industry after its wine exports declined by about 30% in 2019,” says Joubert.

“Wines of South Africa (Wosa), which promotes SA wine exports, planned to engage there with the international wine market and give new direction to the SA wine industry.”

A few weeks before the event, however, it was cancelled due to the spreading of the coronavirus in Europe. Then wine exports to China stopped due to the coronavirus impact on the halting of trade.

More export woes

“We then started getting messages from customers in the UK, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands that the coronavirus spreading was getting serious in Europe,” says Joubert. “Orders from Europe started dropping off.”

On top of that, about three weeks ago a Dutch wine tourist to the Cape Winelands tested positive for the virus, prompting a large number of wine farms to put themselves in voluntary quarantine.

Just how important wine exports are for the local industry is demonstrated by the fact that it makes up 60% of the market of the local industry.

“The major issue for the SA wine industry at the moment is the export market. No exports are happening. One local producer has been trying for three weeks not to get a shipment out of SA,” says Joubert.

“At the same time, overseas orders have been cancelled or postponed due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on, among other things, the hospitality industry. That is the trend at the moment.”…. Read the full article