Ban Lifted on SA Wine Sales – But Industry Needs Buyers’ Support

Wine producers across South Africa have welcomed the lifting of the ban on alcohol sales from midnight 17th August 2020, but the industry still needs the support of buyers nationally and internationally in order to protect jobs, says Penny Streeter, CEO of Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate. The industry has suffered hugely from the effects of the restriction on wine sales in South Africa, she says, which is the only country where there has been a ban during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.

Some 300,000 people are employed both directly and indirectly in the wine industry, according to Wines of South Africa, WOSA. This includes the many people working within hospitality as well as the wine tourism sector – ranging from transport operators to entertainment services, such as the popular wine tasting pontoon tours at Benguela Cove.

In addition to the impact on domestic sales from the ban, exports were also stopped, which normally represent some 50 percent of all revenue for the wine industry. South Africa produced 974 million litres of wine in 2019, with export revenues valued at R8.5 billion, according to data from WOSA.

The industry is believed to have lost more than R7 billion since the introduction of sales restrictions in March 2020, says Vinpro, a non-profit company which represents 2,500 South African wine producers, cellars and industry stakeholders.

Following the initial nine-week ban on local sales, five-week ban on exports and second domestic sales ban, Vinpro estimates that more than 80 wineries and 350 wine grape producers would go out of business over the next 18 months, with a potential loss of more than 21,000 jobs across the value-chain.

The #JobsSaveLives campaign was launched during the ban to petition for the sale of alcohol in sit-down restaurants, as well as a relaxation of the 9pm curfew. The initiative was taken up internationally too, appealing to expatriates and other drinkers of South African wine internationally, many of whom have enjoyed wine tours in the Cape, says Penny Streeter.

“As a wine producer and destination, we were very encouraged by the level of support for the #JobSaveLives campaign that we saw from UK buyers, both through our wine club there, as well as at our estates at Mannings Heath Golf and Wine Estate and at Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens. Brits love South African vintages and the wine tourism experience – we get many visitors from the UK at Benguela. Whilst our industry has been hit by the ban, there is huge potential for the sector, both for exports and for wine tourism. I am optimistic about the future – but the public and Government must get behind the industry.”

Benguela Cove has resumed online sales following relaxation of the ban, and its South African wine club is preparing for the next distribution of its limited edition wines. The full onsite services and entertainment on the wine estate – including lagoon wine tours, Moody Lagoon restaurant and Pirate Golf – will open from September 24th.

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