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Tue Sep 27 07:22:37 SAST 2016

International demand for SA wines chokes on smoke fears

TMG Digital | 03 February, 2016 15:31
Helicopters, firefighters and farmworkers have battled a massive blaze at Uitkyk Wine Estate in Simonsberg, between Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek.
Image by: Adrian de Kock

This summer's drought‚ compounded by fire damage‚ is hurting the Cape wine and fruit industry.

The Western Cape regional fruit production sector has suffered losses amounting to R720 million. The wine industry has suffered damage of R20 million so far‚ as around 82 hectares of vineyards have been lost due to drought and fires. This was revealed during a provincial committee briefing on Wednesday on the impact of drought and fires on agriculture.

According to VinPro‚ the South African wine industry has seen a 15% drop in wine production in 2015.

"The impact of the fires extends beyond the damage to vineyards‚" Beverley Schäfer‚ chairperson of the Standing Committee of Economic Opportunities‚ Tourism and Agriculture‚ said in a statement.

"The international demand for South African wines has declined due to fears of smoke damage. This despite the fact that local winemakers have the facilities to treat the grape for smoke damage‚ thus eradicating the impact on the flavour. It is critical that government communicates this to international consumers."

While wine producers have managed to keep the increase in the cost of wine production at 8%‚ the committee heard that this will most likely rise by 10-15% as of 2016.

Recovery will not be quick as some affected regions will take years to recover‚ Schäfer said.

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