Financial indicators of top performing wine grape producers

by | May 31, 2016 | Business and Marketing

VinPro Production Plan Survey 2015 (Part 2)

Primary wine grape producers use precision production practices to curb cost increases and realise a profitable crop despite an ongoing decrease in the area planted to wine grapes.

The VinPro Production Plan Survey was conducted in the wine industry for the 12th consecutive year in 2015. Part 1 of the report, which was discussed in last month’s issue of WineLand, provides an overview of the most important findings over the past 10 years, with strong emphasis on the 2015 production year. The practices of top achievers are showcased in Part 2.

Wine farmers’ income does not comply with sustainable target guidelines yet, but it is encouraging to see that some producers in each of the nine wine districts manage annually to do better than these guidelines and realise excellent returns, despite the risks taken during the season.


VinPro Agricultural Economic Services, with the support of Winetech, the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC), Standard Bank, Absa, Land Bank, FNB, Nedbank and Capital Harvest, conducted financial analyses in all nine wine districts in 2015. The primary objective is to ascertain the production structure, cost structure and profitability per district, in order to determine the financial prosperity of the producers.

Altogether 226 farming units from nine wine districts participated in the 2015 Production Plan Survey. In 2015 the sample consisted of 22 545 ha (22% of the total South African surface planted to wine grapes in 2014), who produced 380 988 tons (26% of the total South African crop in 2015). Of these 62% and 38% were white and red wine grapes respectively, and 59% of the tons were harvested mechanically.

The analysis applies to the vineyard enterprise as a whole (bearing and non-bearing hectares) and in terms of the cost analysis, it does not distinguish between cultivars and specific blocks. The greater majority of the participants are diversified and differ in terms of farm size. The report represents industry average figures, calculated by determining the weighted average of all the participants. The Malmesbury district is evaluated separately throughout and does not form part of the industry average figures, in view of the fact that this study group cultivates a large component of dryland vineyards, which require an alternative production, cost and capital structure.

TABLE 5. Income and expenditure statements of top achievers. FIGURE 14. Distribution of top achievers in the respective districts. TABLE 6. Production cost comparison of top achievers and industry average. FIGURE 15. Percentage composition of annual cash expenditure – top achievers compared to industry average. FIGURE 16. Age composition – top achievers compared to the industry average. TABLE 7. Income and expenditure statement of the top third, industry average and bottom third. TABLE 8. Trends in the South African wine value chain since 2004. FIGURE 17. Trends in the South African wine value chain since 2004 – taking into account the CPI (Consumer Price Index).


Financial results of top achievers

During the 2015 production year the top 50 wine producers in the study group realised a gross income (GI) and net farming income (NFI) of R66 583/ha (industry average R49 108/ha) and R25 819/ha (industry average R87 473/ha) respectively. For the fifth consecutive year this is in line with the VinPro guideline for economic sustainability of R64 115/ha GI and R22 480/ha NFI on average. From 2011 – 2015 the average farm size of the top 50 producers amounted to 72, 84, 74, 89 and 91 ha respectively planted to wine grapes – compared to the industry average of 84, 86, 87, 92 and 98 ha.

It is encouraging to see that the top achievers are distributed across the industry and represent all nine wine districts. The noteworthy improvement in NFI of top producers can be ascribed, as in 2014, to considerably higher productions of 20.88 ton/ha compared to the industry average of 17.48 ton/ha – a 19% increase. The average price of R3 188/ton realised by top achievers is 13% higher than the industry average of R2 810/ton.

Top producers’ annual cash expenditure (R30 870/ha) is at least 3% lower than that of the industry (R31 944/ha), while the provision for replacement of this group at R9 893/ha is about 2% higher than the industry average of R9 691/ha. Total production cost of the top 50 producers amounts to R40 763/ha, 2% lower than the industry average of R41 635/ha.

The composition of top achievers’ cash expenditure does not differ substantially from the industry average. The top 50 producers spend more on direct costs, namely fertiliser and pest and disease control and realise that the risk is too large to try and save on direct inputs, which are linked to the size and quality of the crop. Another trend that persists is the extent of mechanisation in order to use labour more productively. This is not only limited to mechanical harvesting of wine grapes, because mechanical pruning is increasingly popular. Even so, some producers still focus their resources on conventional viticultural practices and achieve excellent levels of success.

The difference in the cost structure of the top producers is just one of the drivers that impact on profitability; the improvement in profitability is ascribed to increased productions with an even higher average payout.

Both the top producers and the industry average have an acceptable age composition. It is mostly the top producers who can afford to replace non-profitable grapevines, as well as to diversify, if required, into other more profitable enterprises of the agricultural industry.

Trends in the South African wine value chain

Despite a shrinking area planted to wine grapes, which has seen a decrease of 413 ha to 99 463 ha over the past year, a large crop of 1 477 156 tons was produced in 2015. The crop has increased by 26% from the 2005 crop of 1 171 632 tons. Primary wine grape producers are still leaving the industry and are currently at 3 314, compared to 4 360 in 2005. The 50 producer cellars handle approximately 80% of the annual crop, the balance being handled by the remaining 485 private wine cellars and 25 producing wholesalers.

With 2004 as basis year, Table 7 and Figure 17 illustrate how the financial situation of role players in the wine value chain has changed in recent years.

The following deductions can be made:

  • The average increase in the retail price of wine, excise duty and cellar cost still beats inflation over the 12-year period.
  • Average bulk wine prices and producer cellar grape prices are moving closer to and more in line with inflation.
  • Non-producer cellar grape prices are still below inflation and have even decreased at times.
  • While production cost at farm level has increased more in line with inflation, the increase still exceeds that of wine prices.

Primary wine grape producers have limited vertical integration in terms of the wine value chain, therefore they have limited bargaining power, especially in periods of surplus wine stocks, and they remain price takers. Increased production was a forceful driver to increase profitability over the past 12 years. Top producers also perform above average with regard to grape prices and they manage costs carefully. It is encouraging to see that all nine districts are represented in the Top 50, despite the different business models involved, namely by private grape producers who supply the trade, primary producers at producer cellars and estates. World-wide supply levels have changed dramatically since the shortages in 2012 and primary producers should be thoroughly aware of how this impacts on their business and value chain, and adapt their strategy accordingly to produce wine grapes sustainably.


In the 2015 production year top achievers managed to fare better than the industry average in all three facets of profitability (production, cost and price). This shows that production and resources are being aligned with the wine objective and that costs are thoroughly weighed up against the specific output. Economies of scale, diversification, mechanisation and increased production are obvious trends. The biggest factor is management and in many instances it is the owner himself who determines the winning recipe.

It is encouraging to see that there are primary wine grape producers in all nine wine districts who manage year after year to fare even better than the VinPro prescribed sustainability guidelines. This is not just a year trend – top achievers managed to show an increase in NFI over the past five years.

– For more information email Andries van Zyl at or Funzani Sundani at

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