Early this year the department of agriculture approved the accrued savings and interest from Wieta’s 2017 financial year. This is allocated to a joint Wosa and Wieta communication initiative in the Netherlands and Sweden, following the Bitter Grapes documentary that was screened last year.
At the beginning of May, Wosa arranged a meeting in Amsterdam between a delegation from South Africa, Dutch importers and supermarket buyers. The day after this meeting the delegation had a meeting at Systembolaget HQ. Following this meeting, a seminar in Sweden promoting ethical trade and transformation in the winelands was co-hosted by the South African embassy in Stockholm as part of its Human Rights Day celebrations. The Ethical Communications Panel members included Wieta chairperson Mzukisi Mooi, Wieta CEO Linda Lipparoni, Abraham Daniels of the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), Denise Stubbs of Thokozani and myself.
The Joint Ethical Marketing Initiative alludes to the complexity of the message we tried to communicate to our international clients. We shouldn’t be selling or advertising ethical trade. Instead, it should be a way of doing business. By providing context about South Africa and its wine industry, our audience gained an understanding of our thriving projects and the challenges we continue to face as an industry.
My purpose on the panel was to share information about industry-leading and funded initiatives. I first provided context about South Africa, its history and the appalling human rights violations, which were also perpetrated in the wine industry.
While there’s nothing we can do to change the past, we can learn from it and build an inclusive nation. The wine industry in particular realised the problems it faces are too great to solve alone and that a collaborative effort involving government, the private sector, trade unions, NGOs and civil society was needed. This was the foundation on which Wise (Wine Industry Strategic Exercise) was established in 2014 with the aim to build a robust, competitive and profitable industry.
The focus of my talk was what the industry is doing to fast-track inclusivity at all levels, including business, job creation, education, social development and labour.
The current projects under this collective umbrella were discussed and it was explained why only 2% of the land and water under vine is owned by black people. A map of the winelands showed how the wine-growing regions were far from homelands where black people were allowed to own land. Nor could they study winemaking.
It was emphasised that the wine industry’s focus is on making the 44 black farming projects sustainable through focused resource allocation from all stakeholders. Where government has procured land for black people, the private sector supports the enterprises through levies and broad-based black economic empowerment funds based on turnover. VinPro provides much-needed specialists, such as soil scientists, at no cost.
Further up the value chain black-owned wine brand enterprises are also supported by the industry levies which fund international trade visits and increase the brands’ local footprint. An example of this was the full funding of the Treasure Chest National Road shows in major cities where black brand owners were able to advertise their wines to distributors, buyers and customers alike.
In 2014 South Africa’s unemployment rate was 35%, of which 36% comprised youths aged 18 to 35. The VinPro Foundation, Stellenbosch Municipality, Cape Wine Auction and the Dame Hillary Cropper Foundation support the Pinotage Youth Development Academy (Pyda). This year R23 million was raised for education at the Cape Wine Auction. Pyda runs an impressive one-year programme which incorporates theory and practice and also focuses on personal development training for youths who live in the townships surrounding the winelands. The 95% employment rate is very encouraging!
The industry funds training opportunities, from basic vineyard worker training through to degree level, at no cost to black employees. We recently invested in building a learner management system which will take our training and job advertising to a higher level. The system is the first of its kind in South Africa’s agricultural sector. People will have access to their own information which can be used as an electronic curriculum vitae.
The Western Cape has a very real alcohol- and substance-abuse problem. Historically, workers in the old colonies and during apartheid were paid with cheap alcohol, a practice that was known as the “dop system”. Although it was banned in the 1960s the ban was not enforced until the 1990s when South Africa’s new democratic government under Nelson Mandela was voted into power. As an industry we’re aware that substance dependency traps people in a cycle of poverty. This leads to adverse health problems including TB, child and adult malnutrition and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), not to mention social problems. Our collective initiatives are focused on educating moms-and-dads-to-be. Other key aspects are counselling and rehabilitation of adults and a strong focus on children and teenagers, particularly those who’ve dropped out of school.
The SA wine industry is the seventh largest producer of wine and provides more than
290 000 jobs. We’re the largest global producer of Fairtrade wines and 52% of our wine production is Wieta-accredited. We have a world-class traceability system that homes in on the vineyard where the grapes for a wine come from.
The aim was to inform delegates that work is being done on all fronts by all stakeholders. We have several success stories we’re proud of, but realise it will take more than two decades to solve our problems.
Our wines deserve a fair price. South African producers see a 2% return on investment and my work requires us to have thriving farms with a healthy turnover. We’re the top Fairtrade producer, continue to grow our Wieta-accredited volumes and have a world-class traceability system. The continued under-pricing of South African wines by other countries smacks of double standards and the only way this can be rectified is by paying a fair price for our world-class wines.
The South African wine industry remains focused and will continue supplying quality wines from ethically grown vines and we know that the impact of the work we do will in the long run be multigenerational and legacy changing.