South African wine producers can start exporting again

30 April, 2020

South African wine producers have been cleared to resume exports after the country’s coronavirus lockdown was eased.

Tomorrow will mark the end of a strict five-week shutdown and see South Africa move to alert level 4 instead. That will allow producers to recommence agricultural exports, including wine and spirits such as Amarula.

It is the latest stage in a saga that has caused producers to flit regularly from hope to despair in recent weeks.

The wine trade was initially ordered to suspend all operations during a lockdown designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 across the country. 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.

On April 7, the government made an exemption, allowing exports to resume, but nine days later it performed a U-turn, bringing all exports to a halt once again. Now they can start up again on Friday.

Around half of South Africa’s wine production is exported, so the ban had a severe effect on wine-related businesses, and the livelihoods of the 290,000 people employed in the sector.

“Producers are still feeling the pinch due to the local market standing still, but now half of the industry can get cracking,” said wine marketing consultant Emile Joubert.

“On the upside, the government's shocking handling of the situation for South African wine has drawn immense support for our industry from overseas producers, journalists and retailers. This could lead to greater empathy and support for Brand South Africa, possibly having long term benefits in elevating our profile.”

Siobhan Thompson, chief executive at Wines of South Africa, said: “We are grateful to President Ramaphosa and the relevant government departments for the confirmation and providing certainty, and as such we endeavour to be responsible in our actions and messaging to ensure the safety of our people.

“As an industry we remain fully committed to implementing a safety protocol, which will effectively address transmission risks across our value chain. The safety of our workforce, customers and consumers are of utmost concern to our industry.”

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