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SA's agricultural sector calls for lifting of booze ban

11 August 2020 - 11:43 By Suthentira Govender
Agri SA is 'gravely concerned' about the impact the ban on the sale of alcohol is having on farmers.
Agri SA is 'gravely concerned' about the impact the ban on the sale of alcohol is having on farmers.
Image: 123RF/Vladislavs Gorniks

SA's agricultural sector has joined growing calls for the government to reconsider its ban on the sale of alcohol.

Agri SA said it was “gravely concerned” about the impact the current ban has had on the value chain ranging from wine, barley, hops, fruit and maize farmers to glass manufacturers and processors.

“SA Breweries (SAB) is the only beer producer that procures almost 100% of ingredients locally for their operations, and is severely constrained by the ban.

“This spills over to farmers who will not have off-take for their produce.

“The same is happening in the wine industry, with many sellers under severe financial pressure,” said Omri van Zyl, Agri SA executive director.

He described the ban as “corporate carnage”.

SAB recently announced it had halted R5bn in investments in the country over the next two years because of the ban on alcohol sales.

“The cancellation of more than R15bn in investments by the alcohol industry poses a massive threat to the sustainability of the industry and the economy as a whole,” said Van Zyl.

Agri SA said it  was worried about barley producers who supply the beer industry.

“Farmers will be harvesting barley towards the end of the year, raising uncertainty among farmers about the coming season.

“Barley is mostly produced in one region, the southern Cape, and this will have a major impact on their regional economy after a devastating drought last year.

“The carry over of barley stocks will have a negative impact on the tonnages produced next year. Farmers are expecting good yields this season, but still need rain in the next month to complete a good harvest,” he said.

Agri SA head of corporate chamber, Mihlali Xhala, said: “If our main priority is economic recovery, this is definitely not helping.

“The industry is willing to abide to strict protocols, but the sudden ban does not make sense.

“Illicit alcohol trading is shooting through the roof, and government is losing billions in tax and excise income,” said Xhala.