SA wine exports get green light again

The South African wine industry must be giving a huge sigh of relief as the transportation of wine for export is once again allowed.

"Winemakers have been pleading to the opening up of exports," Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Thoko Didiza announced.

On Wednesday night details of what would be allowed in the agricultural industry during lockdown level 4, starting on 1 May, was announced.

In fact, on top of wine, the transportation of liquor per se - including products like Amarula - will be permitted when the country moves to level 4.

This follows after this type of transport was initially banned ahead of the start of the lockdown period on 27 March as it was not seen as "essential". After about a week it was suddenly permitted again for about another week it was suddenly banned again.

Industry organisations like the wine producers body Vinpro have been lobbying all along to get permission granted to get their products to ports.

"Producers are still feeling the pinch due to the local market standing still, but now half of the industry can get cracking," says 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."

Grape and wine production is one of the largest export-orientated agricultural value-chains, with a contribution of R49 billion to GDP. It also earns valuable foreign exchange for the country.

Maryna Calow, communications manager of Wosa, which markets SA's wine exports, says the South African wine industry is elated and truly grateful to government for its decision to lift transport restrictions. Manufacturing and related services, which will enable the industry to fulfil its obligations with regard to wine exports, are also now allowed.
 
"It is the interpretation of the industry task team that the regulations announced on Wednesday evening permit the wine industry to do essential procurement, manufacturing (bottling, labelling and packaging) of wine under strict health and safety protocols," says Calow.

"And that it permits the transport of wine to the port and airport for export and via road for export into neighbouring countries. And that permit-essential support services such as inspection and certification are also allowed."

Agriculture in general

The export of wool and other synthetic products will be allowed at level 4; harvesting of grains and oil seeds may take place, forestry is allowed and bee keepers may attend to their bees, including at night.

Didiza said at level 4 government wants to make sure that some industries which support the agriculture sector are operating. This would include mechanisation services for tractors and other implements required for production.

Retail shops providing agricultural inputs may operate and auctions may take place, but under strict conditions to adhere to the prevention of health risks.

Hunting and the transport of live animals are allowed as well as research, inspection, certification and quality control services.

All fishing, operation of fish hatcheries and fish farms will be allowed under certain conditions.

Harvesting and storage activities essential to prevent the wastage of primary agricultural, fishing and forestry goods will be allowed.

The export of all agricultural, agro-processed, fishing and forestry products are allowed.

In answer to a question about seasonal workers, the minister appealed to farmers to look for labour in their own vacinities and provinces. She said seasonal workers will not be allowed cross border or across provincial borders.

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