Yesterday, I wrote to the National Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Minister Thoko Didiza, requesting that wine tasting and wine sales at wineries and wine farms be permitted on Sundays.
My letter follows the publication of regulation R1346, dated 15 December 2020, which limits wine tastings and sale of wine for off-site consumption to Mondays to Saturdays from 10:00 to 18:00.
This limitation will be detrimental to the wine tourism and agro-processing economy, which employs thousands of people in the Western Cape. Weekends are essential in this industry because it is precisely when tourists are likely to visit farms and purchase from them.
It also does not align to what was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 14 December, where no Sunday exception was mentioned.
To quote the President exactly:
“Registered wineries and wine farms may continue to offer tastings and wine sales to the public for off-site consumption over weekends.”
While the Western Cape Government shares National Government’s concern with the resurgence of Covid-19 cases in the country, it is critical that we get the balance right between saving lives and livelihoods.
We contend that a visit to a wine farm, that is following careful health and safety protocols, is an example of safe tourism behaviour during this difficult time. This is because it is primarily an outdoor activity with good ventilation, where social distancing is possible.
The economic benefit of this industry is not in question.
Wine grapes represents 50,3% of the 181 233 ha under fruit production in the Western Cape Province, and the replacement value of these wine grapes amounts to R33,94 billion. Wine is the third biggest export product of the Western Cape economy and contributes 6,5% to the value of exports from the Province.
The Department estimates that 45 610 people work in the primary production side of the industry and supports the livelihoods of 228 053 people.
The iconic nature of the wine industry resulted in the fact that it has strong linkages with the tourism sector.
During the initial stages of the Covid-19 lockdown, South Africa was the only major wine exporting country banning the exports of wine. The result was that we handed market share on a platter to some of our competitors.
Even after the domestic trade of wine was resumed with the introduction of Level 3 regulations, the sales did not return to normal levels.
The result is that a quarter of annual sales were lost which, in turn, add to cash flow problems for producers. We cannot be putting even more pressure on this battling sector. In fact, we must be doing everything possible to help them grow and employ more people.
That is why the Western Cape Government’s position remains that extending trade to registered wineries and wine farms to include Sundays will support the recovery of the Wine Industry and the economy of the Western Cape, and we ask for the support of the Minister Didiza in this respect.