Yesterday, I wrote to the National Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, Thoko Didiza, to request her assistance in lifting the third ban on wine and other liquor sales.
This follows the request by the Premier of the Western Cape, Alan Winde, to the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, last week.
The Western Cape Government accepted the restrictions that were announced by the President as a last resort in order to protect our healthcare system during an unprecedented surge and over a period of time when alcohol related trauma was expected to spike.
We however argued that it should be for fourteen days only and reviewed every seven days thereafter, based on scientific evidence.
Now nearly a month after the restrictions came into place, we believe that the evidence clearly points to the need to relax these restrictions in order to save jobs.
We are now experiencing a decline in active cases and newly reported daily Covid-19 cases. All other indicators are also pointing to the Western Cape having passed its peak, and that the surge – which caused such pressure on the health system – being over.
Furthermore, our department of health in the Western Cape has put in place a number of measures to increase capacity, and we have adequate beds, oxygen and staff to provide care to every person who needs it.
That is why wine sales should now be allowed in line with the “differentiated approach” envisaged during the President’s speech of 14 December 2020.
Wine grapes represent 50,3% of the 181 233 ha under fruit production in the Western Cape Province. 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 industry’s primary production side and supports the livelihoods of 228 053 people.
During the initial stages of the Covid-19 lockdown, South Africa was the only major wine exporting country banning wine exports. 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 adds to cash flow problems for producers. We cannot be putting even more pressure on this battling sector. We must be doing everything possible to help them grow and employ more people.
Our research also shows that the first two weeks of the ban cost the Western Cape R1 billion. This has impacted 1893 direct jobs in the retail sector and 905 induced and indirect jobs across the value chain resulting in 2798 jobs being compromised.
If the ban continues for the full month, which it now seems likely to do, it will end up costing the economy R2 billion, impacting 5596 jobs in our province.
To this end, we ask for the support of Minister Didiza in changing the regulations as follows:
- Alcohol sales be permitted offsite from Monday to Thursday, and not permitted on the weekend;
- Alcohol sales be permitted at wine farms on the weekend, as this is the time when most visitors come to wine farms. Such sales are critical for the survival of wine tourism in the Western Cape; and
- Onsite alcohol consumption be allowed. If restaurants cannot sell alcohol with dinner service, they will not remain profitable and will be forced to close. This will result in many job losses.