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Vinpro approaches courts to save SA wine industry

Published:  27 January, 2021

Vinpro has announced it has approached the Cape High Court in a bid to save the beleaguered South African wine industry.

Vinpro said that, faced with the devastating impact that the third ban on domestic wine sales had on the industry, it had been left with “no choice" but to approach the Cape High Court.

“While we share government’s concern over the devastating effect of this pandemic and support meaningful measures to flatten the curve, we do not support the continued outright ban on the sale of wine while alternative interventions are available to mitigate risks,” said the industry body. 

It added that it was is not saying a liquor ban "may not be justified when hospitals and particularly trauma units are under pressure", but that it believed that “not only has the wrong level of government been dealing with the retail sale of liquor during the national state of disaster, but government has used and maintained nationwide bans which are overbroad, unnecessary, unjustified and, indeed, counter-productive." 

Vinpro also reiterated that a “more flexible, nimble approach was needed, based on credible empirical data", stating that the provincial executive should be empowered to deal with the retail sale of liquor for the rest of the pandemic. 

"Provincial authorities are normally responsible for regulating the sale of liquor and in charge of healthcare and provincial hospitals, thus they are better equipped to manage the delicate balance between lives and livelihoods,” it said.

Despite continuous engagement with government to curb the spread of the virus through the implementation of a risk-adjusted approach to re-opening the economy and addressing the social ills of alcohol abuse through a social compact, Vinpro’s proposals were not taken into account when the third ban was introduced on 28 December 2020. 

Moreover, government had also “not been transparent with us on justifying the continued ban, nor did it give any explanation or clarity on the timeline for a review of this ban. This makes planning and contingency plans impossible”, Vinpro said.

Following a ban of 19 weeks since March 2020, this  has resulted in a loss of more than R8bn in direct sales and the possible closure of cellars and producers, threatening 27 000 jobs, according to Vinpro.

Furthermore, with the 2021 harvest commencing this week, the industry now has more than 640 million litres of stock of which 300 million is uncontracted. 

This, said Vinpro, posed a material risk of insufficient processing and storage capacity for the new harvest and threatened the sustainability of the wine industry.

At the beginning of this week, Richard Bampfield MW issued a call to the UK trade to support the South African wine industry, as reported by Harpers