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Cape Wine 2018 calls to address challenge of profitability with investment in training and people

Published:  12 September, 2018

Sustainability in both economic and human terms was outlined as the key challenge facing Cape winemakers at the opening conference of Cape Wine 2018.

Speaking in Cape Town on Wednesday 12 September, keynote speakers, including Wines of South Africa’s (WOSA) chair Carina Gous, highlighted a backdrop of global uncertainty against structural issues in the Cape’s industry that need to be overcome to bring greater profitability to South Africa’s winemaking fraternity.

“In South Africa we have a lot of uncertainty,” said Gous. “Profitability remains a huge challenge – about a quarter of grape producers have left the industry in the past 10 years and the areas under vine have declined.”

Figures presented also revealed that while exports remain fairly healthy, bottled (premium) wine exports have failed to increase significantly as a percentage against bulk exports, with South African wine currently sitting in the lowest position on the global market in terms of the price per litre.

“There is a need to increase prices, we cannot really sustain our industry, cannot go forward, to look after our people and communities, unless we have the partners to do this,” added Gous.

Nonetheless, Cape Wine 2018 opens with much optimism that this can be achieved, coming on the back of the excellent 2015 and 2017 vintages, which Tim Atkin MW in his latest annual guide to South Africa has hailed as “arguably the best yet”.

Producers on the Cape are also describing 2015 as South Africa’s “break out vintage”, with near universal high quality across the premium wines produced.

Moreover, much of the fall in production has occurred at the lower end, while at the premium level South Africa continues to generate much excitement among independent buyers and commentators overseas, both for the quality and diversity of its offer.

To help meet those premium aims, WOSA and the industry at large have made several commitments centred on developing and bringing up people through the industry, which currently directly or indirectly employs 300,000 people, with an aim to raise this by 75,000 people by 2025.

Current schemes include the Pinotage Youth Development Academy, designed to bring in and develop new talent, and the Winemakers Guild Protégé Programme.

Mike Ratcliffe of Vilafonté Wine Estates who is to announce the launch of a new initiative aimed at bringing in and nurturing more talent in the industry later this week, described the training up of the workforce as “the number one priority for South Africa”.