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Wine Industry Not Out Of The Woods

7 April 2021 – The hard lockdown and subsequent ban on alcohol – and the transport of alcohol – has left the wine export industry in a precarious position – despite a stable start to the year.

According to Maryna Calow, communications manager for Wines of South Africa (Wosa), while exports are stable the industry is not out of the woods. “We haven’t seen any notable spikes either way and are hopeful that the situation will improve once restrictions across the world start to lift in coming months as vaccination plans are rolled out.”

She said the challenges faced by producers were real. Apart from worldwide alcohol bans, weather continued to play havoc with production – and worldwide container shortages were impacting heavily on the movement of wine.

“All of these elements have affected our industry in various ways. Alcohol bans have led to many of our producers struggling, but we’ve had a lot of positive reports on a good harvest with grape quality that is excellent,” she said. “The recent unseasonal rain has definitely had an impact as our harvest started on average two weeks later than normal due to weather conditions being cooler than normal. Global shipping and container issues have been compounded by equipment and weather issues at the Cape Town port, which have further exacerbated an already challenging situation.”

Calow told Freight News that creativity in times like these was key. “Producers have had to turn their focus on the digital arena with virtual tastings and webinars, and have had to adapt their business plans somewhat to cover for the fact that international travel for this year is looking unlikely.”

She said fortunately South Africa was not the only country in this position and sending samples to potential buyers while hosting Zoom tastings had become widely accepted. “It may well even be here to stay long after the pandemic has ended,” she noted.

Calow said despite the numerous challenges – notably the five-week ban on exports and the issues at the port terminal – wine exports had hit almost 320 million litres in 2020, with the overall value of exports increasing by 7.7%, amounting to R9.1 billion for the year. Countries that showed good growth in value include the UK at 28%, the Netherlands at 19%, the USA at 12% and Sweden at 17%.

“We remain hopeful and positive for recovery, but there is still a lot that can happen in the wake of a likely third wave Covid outbreak in South Africa – which may yield even further alcohol sales bans and challenges. Our producers have proven their resilience in these dire times and we as an industry will do whatever we can to support a viable recovery and future for our wine producers.”

Expectations are high for good export wine this year due to the good 2020 crop.