#Excusesmustfall in wine industry - expert

Cape Town – “Excuses must fall” in the wine industry, Christo Conradie, manager of wine cellars at VinPro, said on Thursday.

“The game is on out there in the industry and it is no good just pointing fingers,” he said at the Nedbank VinPro information day.

“We need to be open, transparent and call a spade a spade. It is important to face reality and understand the bigger context of taking the wine industry forward to 2025.”

Conradie believes it is vital for wine producers and cellars to see their industry as a business “just like any other”.

“The wine industry always says it is unique, but we need to talk like a business and apply business principles,” he emphasised.

Conradie said the reality is that local sales prices for bulk wine and red wine are very close to breakeven point for production.

“Are we just going to continue pointing fingers, for instance at retailers, or are we going to work together to solve challenges?” he asked.

He said the industry must work together and learn from those producers and cellars still doing well. It must also look at the availability of grapes, consumer trends and market opportunities.

“Yes, wine producers and cellars are battling, but we can do something about it. It will be a bumpy ride, but we must be fit, ready and a team,” he said.

“To succeed the industry must challenge its business model and also involve the young guns. Learn from the past, but live for today. Despite potholes we can do it. Let’s talk business.”

VinPro MD Rico Basson said SA is the most fair traded wine industry in the world. At the same time it cannot be business as usual.

Transformation is one of the big themes of the SA Wine Industry Strategic Exercise.

“We must get stronger and better at social engagement, but also set targets," Basson said. “Black-owned brands are struggling and we must assist them. There are opportunities, but we need to work together.”

In his view, the industry must now shift from just a focus on volume to also value growth and fast track the trade agenda. He highlighted areas where government can assist the industry as developing the market in the rest of Africa and looking to markets in the East.

“We must co-petition to grow the pie and stop fighting each other for our own market share. Let’s build relationships,” concluded Basson.

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