The South African wine industry is concerned about the dire consequences that yet another alcohol ban or restrictions on the sale of wine will hold for wine-related businesses and the livelihoods of those working in the South African wine industry value-chain.
Vinpro and the rest of the wine industry share President Ramaphosa’s concern over the sudden and severe spike in positive Covid-19 cases and related deaths, and understand the need for drastic measures to address it. However, without financial support by government it is simply not a viable option to shut down an entire industry on which more than 269 000 people are dependent for their livelihoods while more targeted lockdown measures can be utilised.
“A blanket policy approach to the restriction of wine sales is unnecessary, unjustified and counterproductive. We know and have clear evidence that the restriction of legal trade in wine and other liquor products fuels the growth of the illicit market. Illicit trade currently represents 22% of the total local liquor consumption and has grown significantly since 2020. Because this illicit market is outside the regulatory reach of government and operates uncontrolled, it may have a devastating effect on communities from a health and socio-economic perspective,” says Rico Basson, Vinpro MD.
“A national ban on wine sales will have dire consequences for our industry. 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.”
Basson says wine is part of agriculture, and so too is tourism. “The wine industry proactively implemented preventative measures to protect employees and visitors to farms, as well as the industry’s 533 wineries. We therefore urge government to keep our industry open and apply interventions in certain hotspots.
“It is also time for government to step up and properly police non-compliance with Covid-19 regulations as it certainly does not help to impose harsh restrictions every time the health care system is experiencing a crisis, while regulations are not enforced. Government also needs to accelerate the vaccination roll-out, as these two measures are the first line of defence in a pandemic such as this.
“We advise every wine-related business to do their part and work together now to help flatten the curve. Download the Covid Alert SA app and make use of the hotline to report any violation of the regulations on 0800 014 856. We will continue to engage with government on what needs to be done to save lives and livelihoods as we work together to beat Covid-19. Let’s be part of the solution,” Basson says.
Vinpro represents close to 2 600 South African wine grape producers, cellars and other wine-related businesses who support a significant workforce, all of whom owe their livelihood to and are dependent upon the wine industry. Many of Vinpro’s members also sell and distribute their wines to licensed restaurants and hotels, and furthermore, operate licensed restaurants on their own farms where wine tastings are offered to consumers.