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Wine industry ready to oppose government's restriction on movement of liquor

| Supplier news

The wine industry is planning to oppose the government’s decision to yet again close the tap on South African exports by halting the movement of liquor.

The sector's top representatives, Wines of South Africa, (WoSA), Vinpro and WineLand  said while they acknowledged the government’s effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), the decision to slam the brakes on imports would have far reaching consequences for the industry.

Vinpro said the pandemic and lockdown had deeply deeply affected the industry – from primary production to processing as well as related services and products such as  wine tourism.

“The financial impact on our industry will undoubtedly also pass on to the approximately 300 000 people employed by the wine industry value-chain, as well as their communities, ”Vinpro said in a note to its members on Friday.

The concerns come after the government banned the transportation of liquor on concerns that this could increase hijackings and an illicit, underground alcohol trading.

In a gazette published on Thursday, the government reversed a decision it had taken a week earlier that allowed wine exports to flow.

It said that the only exception was for industrial use of alcohol in the production of hand sanitizers, disinfectants, soap and household cleaning products.

WoSA said the industry was deeply disappointed with changes in the gazette.

Spokesperson Maryna Calow said the decision had put the livelihood and long-term future of our industry in grave danger.

Calow said the industry was considering a legal challenge of the changes.

“If there is a route and grounds for legal recourse, we will follow that. For now we are investigating our available options,” said Calow.

The wine industry employs 290 000 people, and exports between 420 million and 450m million litres a year.

However, following three years of droughts, the industry only exported 320m litres last year.

Edo Heyns, the strategic development and marketing manager at AdVini Wines South Africa said a simple solution to avoid the criminal element would be to protect the high value cargo, “but the decision makers clearly thought otherwise”.

“The South African wine industry is a crucial source of revenue and one of the most important providers of employment in the Western Cape. It is difficult not to feel betrayed,” he said.

Meanwhile Gavin Kelly, chief executive of the Road Freight Association (RFA) said the decision could see South Africa losing a share of the export market for wine.

“There will be a loss of revenue for the country. Down the value chain there will also be a drop in demand for raw materials from the producers, bottlers,” he said.

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