Altogether 374 wine cellars are now members of the Scheme for the Integrated Production of Wine. This ensures that 99,7% of all grapes pressed in South Africa and 97% of cellars (which registered as cellars before the start of the 1999/2000 pressing season) comply with IPW requirements. Moreover, about 30 new cellars joined this past season!
These figures were noted by the IPW office after receiving producers’ evaluation forms. They themselves had to determine the extent to which they conformed with the IPW guidelines in the year 2000. Andries Tromp, manager of the IPW Scheme, says it is encouraging that producers are so positive about the system. “They realise how important it is for products of the vine to be safe for humans and friendly to the environment.”
When one considers how the system is applied in other countries, the South African wine industry has reason to be proud. In New Zealand, with its more comprehensive system, only 30% of the producers participate, compared to 97% in South Africa!
The workings of the IPW system are continuously monitored to keep the system running smoothly. One of the latest developments is the neat paperback edition containing the guidelines for the Integrated Production of Wine. It was compiled in conjunction with ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij who published the original set of guidelines.
The publication appears in English and Afrikaans and is presented in a practical style. It offers not only accessible guidelines for producers, but now also includes references to applicable legislation, such as the Health Act (1977) and the new Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
The guidelines now also contain the evaluation forms according to which each producer should determine the extent to which he conforms with the IPW guidelines. The points system was recently changed from negative to positive. Whereas in the past producers had to make use of a penalty system, they now obtain higher marks for better work. For example, winemakers receive additional points if their cellars comply with the guidelines for SO2 levels and the handling of waste water.
“The positive points system makes the judging process more consumer friendly. Farmers are already saying that beating with sticks is something of the past. After all, it is the producer’s own system in which he wants to show how good he is and not how bad,” says Andries.
Another novelty is the three evaluation methods, instead of one, for the guidelines with which cellars have to comply. These forms make provision for three “types” of cellars: a cellar where wine is made only; one where wine is bottled and one that engages in both activities.
With regard to the self evaluation system, the auditors recently found that in general there was a trend among producers to evaluate some of the requirements pertaining to farms and cellars too positively. Andries is currently involved in discussions with the industry to remedy this matter. “According to the new, positive points system, a high mark may only be allocated if warranted by producers’ records”, he says.
But how does the audit system work It is a technical system applied by ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij. The objective is to give credibility to the IPW Scheme. To get the audit system to work properly, the SA wine industry was divided into six viticultural regions. The ARC team then subjects three cellars and six farms per region to the audit. It is carefully noted whether the relevant parties of 18 cellars and 36 farms completed their evaluation forms in all fairness, and therefore correctly.
To make the scheme even more accessible, an IPW website is in the process of being created. (The web address will be announced shortly.) This website will contain all information regarding the IPW Scheme; as well as a list of participants and evaluation forms for easy accessibility. Andries says the website will undoubtedly be supported since several cellars have already subscribed to the Internet.
Andries and his team are currently working very hard to market the IPW Scheme internationally and have seen unprecedented interest the past few months. He has been invited to various countries such as France, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia and California to talk about the application of the South African system.
Although the president addresses the various wine industries, there is also interest from other agricultural fields. The interest in sustainable business is world-wide. “People are keen to learn more about sustaining an enterprise, and ensuring that nothing goes wrong with a product or its production,” explains Andries.
The IPW system is marketed on various forums and one of the very latest strategies is to submit information to Wines of South Africa (WOSA) and the big buyers abroad of our wine, such as the chain stores Tesco and Sainsbury. These are also the people who do generic marketing of our wines abroad. Andries and his team remain in touch with them, for he reckons their timing is perfect. “It just so happens that European retailers of agricultural products have now also founded an organisation to advance human safety and environmental friendliness.” In many respects their guidelines concur with those of South Africa.
According to Andries it is especially important for the buyers of South African wine to be well informed about our system, for it is the IPW Scheme that will eventually keep South African wine in the foreign markets. The guarantees offered by the scheme conform exactly to the demands of foreign and domestic consumers. “After all, nobody wants to damage the environment or harm his own health.
“If South Africans were to ask me now whether we’ll sell more wine or receive more money for our wines, I am in a position to say that it is indeed a possibility, but more likely it will ensure that we retain our market share.”
However, it not only keeps foreign buyers informed. To date 1 400 South African farmers, winemakers, consultants and representatives of the chemical industry have attended the IPW course. They learn about the philosophy behind the IPW guidelines, and even how to complete the evaluation forms. A new module of the course is legislation. “It is important for everyone to be aware of the laws so that they may have a better understanding of the origin of some of the guidelines.”
Andries points out that the chemical manufacturers of fertiliser in this country participate in the IPW Scheme. “They form an integral part of the group drawing up the guidelines. We talk to them. It is not a dispute.”
According to Andries, producers in general collaborate well with regard to the execution of the system, and especially the evaluation of their farms. They also have the opportunity to lodge complaints about the IPW Scheme with the Wine and Spirit Board, but so far nobody has complained. “Instead we have received lots of letters with positive comments. The fact that farmers themselves fund the scheme also plays a role in their dedicated attempt to follow the guidelines.
“However, the IPW Scheme does not promise instant sanctity. It should rather be seen as a process that works towards the goals of human friendliness and environmental safety.”