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Wine industry enters digital space to boost sales during the lockdown

03 September 2020 - 08:30 By SIPOKAZI FOKAZI
Having lost billions of rand during the lockdown after a ban on alcohol sales, the wine industry is set to rebuild itself through a new digital platform that will see local wines promoted internationally.
Recovery plan Having lost billions of rand during the lockdown after a ban on alcohol sales, the wine industry is set to rebuild itself through a new digital platform that will see local wines promoted internationally.
Image: 123RF/jeka81

The wine industry has no doubt been one of the businesses worst hit by the lockdown, but a new digital platform that is aimed at promoting the country’s wine exports globally, brings a glimmer of hope to this battered sector.

The Cape Export Network, a brainchild of Wesgro and Wines of SA, which is being  introduced in the country on Thursday, will help wine buyers and importers who have an interest in local wine to safely select wine of their choice using criteria that include wine type, tasting notes as well as the region where the wine has been produced. Based on their selection, the platform will present wines listed that meet these criteria.

The wine industry, which stopped trading twice during the lockdown after the ban on alcohol sales, was brought to its knees with many people having lost their jobs as businesses struggled to make ends meet. It is estimated that the wine industry lost R200m a week on exports during the five weeks of no exports and R300m in local sales per week, More than 100,000 jobs were lost.

With the uncertainty surrounding the future of large trade fairs in a post-Covid-19 world, the digital platform is set to take SA wines to the world and “as a supplier of premium wine brands globally”, said Siobhan Thomson, CEO Wines of SA.

“We find ourselves doing business in unprecedented times and platforms such as these will help pave the way to doing business in a world where we embrace new opportunities and, in doing so, take on exciting new challenges. This platform will undoubtedly assist SA producers in exploring opportunities around the globe.”

The closure and scaling down of businesses, restaurants and other industries linked to the sale of alcohol, such as the wine tourism industry, has affected jobs and livelihoods as businesses struggled to meet their financial obligations, in the absence of sales during the lockdown.

David Maynier, Western Cape MEC for finance and economic opportunities, said SA wines were internationally renowned “but there is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on wine exports”.

“And so, we welcome the launch of the Cape Export Network as an initiative to support and rebuild the industry. In addition, the platform also creates an exciting opportunity for new and emerging wine producers to be discovered by importers so that more people around the world can taste the finest wines that we have to offer in the Western Cape.”

Producers that have never exported before, but have found a match on the platform, will be guided by sectorial experts and mentors to become export-ready and to meet the needs of global importers of wine, through Wesgro’s export advancement programme.

SA wine producers will also have access to a free-to-use ‘how to export guide’ that has been created by Wines of SA.

The platform will also open doors for international importers entering the SA wine market for the first time to do the free Wines of SA online wine course, which will help them better understand varietals, wine styles and the history of the Western Cape and the SA wine industry. It also gives them insight into the wine-growing regions of SA.  

Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris said the Western Cape, as the world’s 8th-largest producer of wine, already sold about one million bottles of wine per day. “Our new platform will now take more of our quality product to more buyers around the world. The platform is free to use, but everyone that registers will be vetted before being able to access the matchmaking services. Businesses will also be required to update their details quarterly.” 

To access the network portal, go to: https://supportbusiness.co.za/capeexportnetwork/