Wine in­dus­try warns of col­lapse if har­vest­ing, ex­port­ing halted

Pretoria News - - BUSINES REPORT - DI­NEO FAKU di­[email protected]

SOUTH Africa’s wine in­dus­try has warned of the col­lapse of the in­dus­try if the gov­ern­ment does not al­low it to con­tinue har­vest­ing and ex­port­ing dur­ing the 21-day na­tional lock­down.

The in­dus­try yes­ter­day held talks with var­i­ous gov­ern­ment de­part­ments to re­verse the lock­down reg­u­la­tions that will re­sult in the shut­ting down of cel­lars and a ban on wine ex­ports.

Vin­pro, which rep­re­sents 2 500 South African wine grape pro­duc­ers, and cel­lars, said that switch­ing off cel­lars would have cat­a­strophic eco­nomic and so­cio-eco­nomic im­pli­ca­tions.

Vin­pro manag­ing di­rec­tor, Rico Bas­son, said on Wed­nes­day that it was es­sen­tial for the in­dus­try to com­plete har­vest­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in the next two weeks, and to se­cure the stock. It also con­tested cur­rent reg­u­la­tions that pro­hibit the ex­port of wine.

“This is an ex­tremely im­por­tant as­pect for cur­rent and fu­ture eco­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity and so­cio-eco­nomic sta­bil­ity,” said Bas­son.

Vin­pro said the fi­nal amended reg­u­la­tions of the lock­down con­tra­dicted ver­bal com­mit­ment from na­tional de­part­ments, within the eco­nomic clus­ter of gov­ern­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the reg­u­la­tions, only food prod­ucts in­clud­ing non-al­co­holic bev­er­ages were listed as es­sen­tial prod­ucts and the trade and man­u­fac­tur­ing of al­co­holic prod­ucts were sched­uled to cease dur­ing the lock­down.

Maryna Calow, a spokesper­son for Wines of South Africa (WoSA), said yes­ter­day that roughly 20 per­cent of grapes still needed to be har­vested in the next two weeks.

“Not only do the grapes need to be har­vested, they also need to be pro­cessed, oth­er­wise all the juice will also es­sen­tially turn into vinegar, and what­ever is left on the vines will go to waste,” warned Calow.

Calow said WoSA, which is the wine ex­port mar­ket­ing coun­cil for the South African wine in­dus­try, was wor­ried that the wine in­dus­try would be brought to its knees if ex­ports were banned dur­ing the lock­down.

“The fact is that if we do not ex­port, there will be a knock-on in the in­dus­try and some farmers may lose every­thing. The is­sue is that lock­down is 21 days, and it might be ex­tended be­yond,” said Calow.

The wine in­dus­try em­ploys about 290 000 peo­ple and ex­ports on av­er­age be­tween 420 mil­lion and 450 mil­lion litres a year.

How­ever, fol­low­ing three years of drought, the in­dus­try only ex­ported 320 mil­lion litres of wine last year.

“We were hop­ing that 2020 would be a year of re­cov­ery for the wine in­dus­try and that yields would be bet­ter fol­low­ing strong win­ter rains in 2019,” Calow said.

The value of wine ex­ports dropped to R8.7 bil­lion last year on lower yields from R9.3bn a year ear­lier.

Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa an­nounced the 21-day lock­down on Mon­day as a mea­sure to con­tain the spread of the coro­n­avirus.

South Africa’s con­firmed coro­n­avirus cases rose to more than 900 yes­ter­day.

Mean­while, Dis­tell, Africa’s lead­ing pro­ducer of spir­its and wines, has an­nounced that it would be­gin pro­duc­ing hand sani­tis­ers and other hy­gienic prod­ucts to curb the spread of coro­n­avirus in South Africa.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Richard Rush­ton said that the com­pany had com­mit­ted 100 000 litres of al­co­hol, which would be used to pro­duce sani­tis­ers and a va­ri­ety of other hy­gienic and sani­tis­ing prod­ucts.

“We fully un­der­stand that our po­si­tion as a lead­ing player in the al­co­holic bev­er­ages in­dus­try comes with a so­ci­etal obli­ga­tion.

“We want com­mu­ni­ties to ben­e­fit from our pres­ence and we are de­ter­mined to rise to the chal­lenge,” said Rush­ton.

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