The wine industry welcomes the further re-opening of the economy, which was announced by President Ramaphosa during his national address on 17 June 2020. The President also specifically raised the issue of violence, especially gender-based violence, road accidents and reckless behaviour among South Africans due to alcohol abuse and the urgency with which the nation needed to re-examine its relationship with alcohol.
While we are painfully aware of the incredible hardship faced by our wine businesses due to previous restrictions on local sales and exports, we also acknowledge the harmful effects of alcohol abuse on individuals and in communities. Vinpro is, however, working closely with Government and the rest of the liquor industry to address this through targeted interventions.
We outline some of the key developments and ongoing activities below.
1. STABILISING THE INDUSTRY
The total ban placed on the local sale of alcohol and e-commerce operations during the first nine weeks of the national lockdown has brought devastating economic repercussions across the sector as it has struggled to survive in the vacuum created during this time. Global uncertainty and challenges at ports further exacerbate export challenges.
A recent survey that Vinpro conducted among producers and cellars has confirmed our understanding of the serious impact of the lockdown on wine businesses and individuals. We know that the recovery process will most likely be long and arduous. As such, the Vinpro board has studied the survey results and commissioned the Vinpro management team to investigate strategic interventions to stabilise the South African wine value-chain at all levels.
We welcome any insights from you to assist us in this process, while at the same time encourage you to proactively take the next steps to ensure the sustainability of your own business.
There are a number of financial support schemes available; please make use of it if you have not done so already.
2. NEW LOCKDOWN REGULATIONS FOR TOURISM
The opening up of further tourism services at restaurants, accommodation establishments, the personal care sector i.e. spas and conference venues represent a welcome revenue injection for our wineries that offer these facilities. We are currently awaiting the official regulations to clarify the date on which these regulations will take effect, as well as the specifics regarding on-consumption wine sales. Vinpro and the South African Wine Routes Forum are in continuous discussion with Government to further safely de-risk the wine tourism sector.
A Wine Tourism Update with an updated tourism services schedule will be circulated as soon as the regulations have been published.
3. GOVERNMENT DELIBERATIONS
Vinpro, as part of a group representing the South African liquor industry, is engaging with Government on an ongoing basis regarding our trading terms, self-regulation, safety protocols and responsible trade.
Our engagements, along with partners such as BASA and SALBA, with the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition (DTIC) yielded an agreement on the controlled resumption of alcohol trade under Level 3. It focused on reducing the risk of transmission in combating the current pandemic and working collectively towards a sustainable economy.
We have been meeting on a weekly basis with the DTIC since the start of Level 3 on 1 June 2020 to monitor local liquor sales, responsible trading efforts and consumption. The next meeting will be held later today, during which the group will deliberate on the status quo and the way forward. We will continue to champion solutions for the challenges that the wine industry is facing, from production to the market place.
4. RESPONSIBLE ACTIONS & MESSAGING
While the production, manufacturing and trading of liquor products have gradually been opened up, the onus is now on us as an industry to drive change in the way we communicate, trade in and consume alcohol. The driving force is simple: we can’t afford not to.
In his national address, President Ramaphosa said:
“We need to draw the lessons from this lockdown and decide how we can protect our society from the abuse of alcohol. Certainly, we need to provide greater support to people with drinking problems, including through rehabilitation and treatment. We need to encourage responsible drinking, especially among young people. We need to be tough on liquor outlets that violate the terms of their licences and who sell alcohol to those [who are] under age. But we will also need to look at further, more drastic measures to curb the abuse of alcohol.”
Our aim as an industry is to initiate a new social compact – including stakeholders from the liquor industry and all three spheres of Government – that will use measurable and evidence-based initiatives to bring about enormous social change to how alcohol is viewed and consumed in South Africa. This is within our reach if we act as a collective with the support of each and every wine business in the industry value-chain.
5. NEGATIVE MEDIA REPORTING
As we strengthen our focus on responsible messaging, we cannot ignore an anti-alcohol narrative observed in media reporting and the public domain over the past few weeks.
We have made the decision as an industry to take a more strategic approach in how we communicate and to rebut negative reporting by providing factually correct information or the proper context. In this regard we have increased our media capacity and expertise to ensure that we manage our local and international reputation while distributing the message of responsible trade and consumption to a greater number of targeted channels.
We would like to thank each wine business for your contribution to rebuilding our industry and your continued support during this unprecedented, challenging time.