South African wine producers cleared to resume exports

08 April, 2020

South African producers have received permission to export their wine around the world after intensive lobbying efforts over the past week.

The industry was initially ordered to suspend all operations during a lockdown designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 across the country. Wineries were in the middle of harvest, but they were ordered to leave thousands of grapes to wither on the vine.

Trade associations lobbied the government to reverse that decision and it relented on March 26, allowing producers to complete the harvest. However, all sales were still prohibited, which prevented the producers from completing any exports.

The South African wine industry employs 290,000 people and contributes R36.1 billion to the nation’s GDP annually, so lobbying efforts were stepped up in a bid to allow exports.

The Minister of Transport has now gazetted new directions under the lockdown regulations to expressly permit the export of wines and other fresh produce products. The regulations stipulate that wines are permitted to be exported and agricultural cargo to be moved to sea ports and international airports for export.

“During the lockdown period, the transportation of the wines and any other fresh produce products at the sea ports and international Airports Designated as Port of Entry for export is allowed,” reads the new directive in the official government gazette.

The South African wine industry said in a news release that it is “truly grateful” to government for showing an understanding of the industry’s challenges through this concession. Nearly half of South Africa’s wine production is exported, and a restriction on exports would have a severe effect on wine-related businesses, and the livelihoods of the 290,000 people employed in the sector.

Wineries were still urged to show great responsibility in keeping employees safe and maintaining strong social distancing measures during the coronavirus lockdown.

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