Western Cape wants level 4 lockdown rules changed for wine industry

01 July 2021 - 12:45 By unathi nkanjeni
The Western Cape has asked the government to ease some of the lockdown restrictions to assist the wine industry. Stock photo.
The Western Cape has asked the government to ease some of the lockdown restrictions to assist the wine industry. Stock photo.

With alcohol sales prohibited under level 4 lockdown, the Western Cape has asked the government to ease some of the lockdown restrictions to assist the wine industry.

SA was moved to an adjusted level 4 on Sunday for 14 days, after a surge in Covid-19 cases.

In his address, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the sale of alcohol and all gatherings, whether indoors or outdoors, were prohibited.

Ramaphosa said the prohibition would ease the pressure placed on hospital services by alcohol-related emergency incidents.

Western Cape MEC of Agriculture Ivan Meyer said the ban was a problem for the wine industry.

“I wrote to the minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Thoko Didiza, to request her assistance to address specific challenges of the level 4 Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and particularly regarding its impact on the wine industry,” said Meyer. 

“The regulation prohibits the transportation of liquor, except when destined for specific purposes, such as for export or the production of hand sanitisers, industrial use and others. 

“There are, however, some other areas for which it is of the utmost importance that the transport of wine should be allowed.”

According to Meyer, these include the following:

  • transport to storage or bottling plants;
  • transport of samples to laboratories or potential buyers;
  • transport to certification bodies as per legislation;
  • transport of wine samples to venues where tasting for domestic and international competitions will take place;
  • transport of wine samples to training venues for students (for example, registered viticulture students at Elsenburg College or the University of Stellenbosch); and
  • international tourists, returning to their countries of origin, who have already bought wine in SA.

Meyer said he urgently requested that the regulations be amended to allow for the transport of wine samples, the transport of wine by tourists, and the transport of wine to bottling plants and storage.

He said wine should be allowed to be sold online and delivered to consumers’ residences via transport or courier services.

“Wine is the third-biggest export product of the Western Cape economy and contributes 6.5% to the province's exports. Implementing the above amendments to section 29 of the regulations published will protect the jobs of the 45,610 people who work in the primary production side of the industry and support the livelihoods of 228,053 people,” said Meyer. 

Vinpro, which represents close to 2,600 SA wine grape producers, cellars and other wine-related businesses, filed an urgent interdict application to lift the ban on the sale of wine in the Western Cape.

On Tuesday, Vinpro asked the Western Cape High Court to allow for the provincial government to make its own rules on liquor sales.

“We need to make and implement decisions that balance preserving both lives and livelihoods. Decisions should be made at a provincial level, based on scientific evidence and according to the infection rate and hospital admissions across these provinces,” said Vinpro MD Rico Basson.

“Government’s failure to both adequately prepare the health facilities for possible dangerous additional waves and to administer an adequate and efficient vaccination rollout cannot hold our wine and tourism industry at ransom any longer.”

The matter is expected to be heard in court on Friday.