south african wine

South African wine producers permitted to finish 2020 harvest during coronavirus lockdown

27 March, 2020

South African wineries are now permitted to finish the 2020 harvest after the government added them to the list of essential businesses during the coronavirus lockdown.

Hundreds of wineries are in the middle of harvest and they were initially told to leave thousands of tons of grapes to wither on the vine. It came after the government ordered a three-week lockdown in a bid to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

Producers were banned from picking grapes or working in wineries, as the industry was deemed non-essential. Wines of South Africa estimated that 20% of the grapes from the current harvest still need to be picked over the next two weeks.

Trade association Vinpro, which represents 2,500 South African growers and producers, warned the socioeconomic ramifications could be catastrophic. It lobbied the government to assign “essential” status to wineries, and the government has now relented.

The new Government Gazette was published overnight, stating that “harvesting and storage activities essential to prevent the wastage of primary agricultural goods” are now considered essential.

“Our interpretation of this amendment is that the wine industry would be allowed to complete the harvest and also the necessary cellar processes to ensure that the crop is not wasted,” said Christo Conradie, manager of wine cellars at Vinpro. “Agri-workers that are required to harvest grapes and/or to operate as cellar workers, will be considered essential workers, during the lockdown period.

“We’re truly very grateful for this outcome and it give us the necessary peace of mind on day one of lockdown, on a Friday right before the weekend. It will allow agri-workers to work optimally and bring in the last of the harvest.

“We would like to once again make a friendly, yet serious request, to everyone to continue to act responsibly. Against the background of a global crisis, which has already taken on traumatic proportions, and may not have manifested itself as a reality in our midst, to implement and execute this permit with due diligence.

“This applies specifically to each member of your team and to lead and manage the number of people who must work with the necessary judgment and consideration.”

However, South African wine producers are still prohibited from selling or transporting wine during the lockdown. It means they are unable to fulfil export orders for at least three weeks.

The South African wine industry employs 290,000 people and contributes R36.1 billion to the nation’s GDP annually.

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