South Africa: the effects of the health crisis on

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South Africa is the world’s eighth largest producer of wine. The sector employs almost 300,000 people directly or indirectly and seeks to reorganize, while being overwhelmed by unsold goods.

From our special correspondent in Cape Town,

The harvest ended in the wine region around the city of Cape Town, and especially on Rob Armstrong’s “Haut-Espoir” farm, which has about ten hectares planted in the Franschhoek valley. “This is our cellar, where the wines mature, they sometimes stay here for three or four years before being bottled,” says Rob Armstrong.

The various bans on the sale of alcohol, introduced to limit accidents and alleviate hospitals during peaks of infections, have left winemakers with many unsold stocks in their hands.

“It would be wise to spend all this money”

If the industry saw a small increase in volume in 2021, Rob Armstrong chose to produce a high-quality vintage for the “Haut-Espoir” vineyard, but available in small quantities.

“Since we are a small family farm, we have decided this year not to harvest everything. We did not harvest all our grapes, we got rid of about 60% of our fruit. And this because of the cost it then represents between the bottles, the lids, the packaging. For us, it would be unwise to spend all the money and not be sure of getting a return on our investment afterwards, says Rob Armstrong.

“We are recovering from the crisis, but it will take time”

The farm “Creation Wines”, which is located near Hermanus, also had to face the consequences of the restrictions. Its owner, Carolyn Martin, does this by reducing costs and testing new experiences.

“We had to reduce our overheads and be very careful. And we also did many online tests thanks to our kits, in Europe, Sydney and South Africa when it was approved. I think we are recovering from the crisis, but it will take time. We are fluent, but we do not really know what this year will look like, says Carolyn Martin.

The uncertainty for small producers turned to local sales

Those who did best were the vineyards that already relied on exports abroad before the crisis, as explained by Zia van Rooyen du Toit, who was responsible for exports to the Lanzerac farm.

“Our foreign customers are loyal to our brand, so for us it has been quite easy to increase our exports. We have reached new markets such as China. So our export component has developed well during this period, says Zia van Rooyen du Toit.

The country also used the recent trade war between Australia and China to place its wines. But for small producers focusing on local sales, uncertainty still hangs over their future survival.

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