President Cyril Ramaphosa has told business leaders that government could do a better job of promoting South African products abroad, saying he was a "huge supporter" of business delegations joining him on international trips.
Ramaphosa was responding to questions from farmers at Beyerskloof Wine Estate in Stellenbosch on Tuesday. He was asked whether he believed established, white-owned businesses still had role to play in his vision for the South African economy, and whether he considered SA’s wine production sector to be an asset.
"The wine industry in the Western Cape employs 300 000 people and many of them live on the farms where they work. The Wine industry generates R4bn in excise duties alone," said Cellarmaster Johan Malan. "Is it not possible for government to plough some of those funds into the wine industry to make it grow?"
Ramaphosa said the wine industry and government needed better dialog about what support and incentives were needed. He noted that in other wine producing countries, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere and in Australia, the industry was heavily supported by the state.
"Yes, wine is an important asset in our country. We would like to secure the wine industry and ensure that it functions and functions extremely well. This is part of the food security we need to preserve in the country jobs," said Ramaphosa.
Speaking of promoting South African agricultural products abroad, Ramaphosa cited the example of inviting beef producers to accompany him on an official trip to China when he was deputy president. He said the trip played a significant role in opening the Chinese market up to locally produced beef. "I am a huge supporter of business delegations coming along for state visits," he said.
He also said that South African wine could find a ready market in Africa. "There is a growing middle class in Africa. No country in Africa makes wine as much or as well as we do. Instead of the continent importing wine from Italy, Spain or Portugal, why should they not import from us," he said.