On Day 21 of South Africa’s COVID-19 lockdown, with a further two weeks of lockdown to go until 30 April 2020, the South African wine industry would like to provide a recap of the activities currently allowed under the National Disaster Management Act, as well as special precautions that accompany these actions.
Wine grape harvesting & winemaking activities
Thanks to a concession from Government, the industry was able to finish harvesting over the past three weeks, with the last few tonnes of the 2020 South Africa’s wine grape crop being harvested this week.
Following the Government Gazette on 20 March 2020, 5 (6) (a) (e) the following was added to the list of essential services on 26 March 2020: “harvesting and storage activities essential to prevent the wastage of primary agricultural goods.”
Under the same concession, wine may be stored in cellars and normal winemaking and cellar activities may continue in order to minimise wastage/losses.
Following the harvest, wine grape producers may also continue with essential post-harvest activities relevant to the 2021 harvest that cannot be delayed.
Paragraph 33 of the Gazette Regulation 398, Article 6(e) 33 of Regulation 419, the following is of relevance to the wine industry: “Critical maintenance services which cannot be delayed for more than 21 days, and are essential to resume operations after the lockdown”.
Vinpro has created a framework that provides a list of these essential post-harvest activities. Read more.
From 7 to 16 April 2020, only market-ready wine products destined for export markets (both packaged and bulk) with an official WSR4A certificate could be transported to the port or airport and then to international destinations.
However, following a media briefing on 16 April 2020 and also referring to the Government Notice (16 April 2020) – amendment of regulation 8 of the regulations with heading, “Limitation on the sale, dispensing or transportation of liquor” – it is our understanding that the initial sub-regulations (Government Gazette Volume 654, Number 43107), have been amended, by the addition of sub-regulation (6).
In addition to this in a press release from the office of Minister Fikile Mbalula, confirmation that the transport of all alcohol products and the cessation of the transport of wine for export purposes is concluded.
This means that only products that are already at the ports and airports may be exported. Therefore the supply of wine to ports or airports for export will be severely affected.
The Exporter Task Team has expressed its disappointment and shock at this sudden change of direction, following extensive lobbying with various government agencies to relax the lockdown measures pertaining to the export and sale of alcohol. “The livelihood and long-term future of the industry is in grave danger and therefore we will explore all avenues in this regard. We endeavour to keep all our members informed as further information becomes available and implore each and every one of you to adhere to the newly imposed measures.”
The industry is addressing the issue of transport with Government as a matter of urgency and will communicate any developments as they unfold.
Local wine trade
No local sales of wine or alcoholic products was allowed over the past three weeks, and liquor sales in the local market is still prohibited until 30 April 2020, as announced on 16 April 2020. The relevant industries are in continuous discussion with Government regarding this and any developments will be communicated as they unfold.
For questions on any other activities related to the production, processing, supplying of services and goods and marketing of agricultural products, read the Western Cape Department of Agriculture’s comprehensive FAQ (as on 13 April 2020).
The South African Government has made a concession to the wine industry for the abovementioned activities to continue. In turn, it is the wine industry’s responsibility to strictly adhere to the regulations and ensure that they create a safe and fair work environment.
A big challenge the industry currently faces is the fact that seasonal workers need to return to their respective homes (often in other provinces), but that no transport of persons across town/provincial borders is permitted. This is currently a priority for Agri SA and Agri Western Cape in discussions with Government.
The South African wine industry is set to be severely affected by the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, which will inadvertently filter down from retail to cellars, farms and the close to 300 000 persons employed by the wine value-chain and their families.
The industry is therefore working closely with the major financial institutions to find ways to relief the economic pressure that wine-related businesses currently face.
We undertake to communicate any further developments as they unfold.