Liquor sales ban eased, but wine producers still heading to court

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Wine businesses have not been able to earn an income from local wine sales for 20 weeks since March 2020.
Wine businesses have not been able to earn an income from local wine sales for 20 weeks since March 2020.
  • Vinpro wants to ensure that the wine industry is not turned on and off by government like a light switch.
  • That is why it plans to still challenge a blanket alcohol ban in the Western Cape High Court.
  • This is despite President Cyril Ramaphosa recently having relaxed the ban.

Wine producers' organisation Vinpro said it is determined to proceed with an application in the Western Cape High Court to request that the premier of the province be given the interim legal power to depart from any overall and nationwide ban on the sale of alcohol.

This is despite the recent relaxation of a blanket ban by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Vinpro represents 533 wine cellars, 2 778 wine grape producers and 269 000 employees in the wine industry value chain.

"We must ensure that our industry is not turned on and off by government again nationwide, like a light switch, regardless of differences in the Covid-19 status in the respective provinces," Vinpro CEO Rico Basson said on Wednesday.

Vinpro wants the Western Cape premier to be able to authorise the sale of liquor on premises and for home consumption in the province. Similar relief in relation to the other provinces will also be requested in due course.  

In the meantime, Vinpro says it is pleased that wine businesses can start trading again, but will continue, as a priority, with various actions to improve the industry's sustainability in the long term.

"Wine businesses have not been able to earn an income from local wine sales for 20 weeks since March 2020, resulting in an overall loss of more than R8 billion from local sales. [There is still] a threat to the survival of cellars, wine grape producers and the livelihoods of 27 000 employees in the wine industry value chain," Vinpro says in a statement. 

Opening wine sales for home consumption from Monday to Thursday, as well as wine cellars for consumption in restaurants and tasting rooms throughout the week and on weekends, will help bring some of the industry's local wine sales back to more sustainable levels, according to Basson.

Long path ahead

"Although we are pleased that businesses can earn an income again, a very long and difficult recovery path for wine-related businesses lies ahead and [it] is even too late for some businesses," he said.

Vinpro admits that Covid-19 is a serious reality that puts lives and livelihoods of South Africans at risk. The wine industry is committed to proactively implement preventive measures from farm level to retail level.

"We also continue to participate in discussions around a risk-adjusted approach to further open and keep the economy open," said Basson.

"Vinpro remains dedicated to finalising a social agreement that includes other beverage industries, government and civil society, to together find more sustainable solutions to social problems around alcohol abuse and change behaviour over the long term."

"Vinpro and our members work together for the responsible cultivation, production, marketing, sale and consumption of our products, for which we have received worldwide recognition," said Basson.

It is as yet unclear whether SA Breweries (SAB) plans to continue with its court challenge against a blanket ban on alcohol sales.

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