'Enough is enough, lift the ban': wine industry body warns situation is dire

12 August 2020 - 14:37 By TimesLIVE
Many wine businesses have already closed and the rest of the industry will not survive a continued alcohol ban, says Vinpro.
Many wine businesses have already closed and the rest of the industry will not survive a continued alcohol ban, says Vinpro.
Image: 123RF/jeka81

“We are fed up with the situation. The ban has served its purpose and should be lifted immediately.”

Vinpro chairperson Anton Smuts did not mince his words in a statement by the wine industry body on Wednesday, warning that the country’s wine industry, and wine tourism, were in a state of disaster brought on by the coronavirus lockdown.

“Urgent intervention is needed or else one of the oldest agricultural industries in the country will not survive,” said Vinpro MD Rico Basson. “Many wine businesses have already closed down because of the previous and current trade restrictions, and the rest of the industry will simply not survive a continued alcohol ban, leaving tens of thousands of employees without any income, possibilities or hope.”

Vinpro, which represents about 2,500 South African wine producers, cellars and industry stakeholders, said the industry was ready to reopen domestic trade and distribution with health and safety regulations in place.

“Since the state of disaster was announced and the whole country put on lockdown, we have negotiated with government to allow the wine industry to complete the 2020 wine harvest and then to allow for exports and domestic trade,” said Basson.

“We understood the severity of the situation in the country then and now and we supported and still support government’s efforts in saving lives by empowering the wine industry to adhere to all regulations with the necessary information on safety protocols.”

But this needed to be balanced with saving livelihoods. “Our producers are already preparing for the 2021 wine harvest, however with close to 300-million litres of surplus wine still in cellar tanks, we might not have space for the new crop. The situation is dire,” said Basson.

“Our grapes are cultivated by 2,873 farmers and their 40,000 employees and our wines are crafted by skilled winemakers and their assistants in our 533 wineries, with many more input suppliers and service providers in the value chain being dependent on the market reopening,” said Smuts.

“For every one job on a farm, a further 10 are created in the rest of the value chain. We are fed up with the situation. The ban has served its purpose and should be lifted immediately.”

TimesLIVE reported earlier on Wednesday that the country could move to level 2 of the lockdown soon if the cabinet accepted a recommendation from directors-general to open more sectors of the economy.

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