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Vinpro: ‘Blanket approach unnecessary, unjustified and counterproductive’

Published:  16 June, 2021

Vinpro has warned about the “dire consequences” another alcohol ban, or restrictions on wine sales, would hold for related businesses and the livelihoods of those working in the South African wine industry value-chain. 

The warning follows president Ramaphosa voicing his concern over the sudden and severe spike in positive Covid-19 cases and related deaths. 

Vinpro said that while it shared his concern, and understood the need for drastic measures to address it, without financial support by government it was “simply not a viable option” to shut down an entire industry when more targeted lockdown measures could be utilised.

“A blanket policy approach to the restriction of wine sales is unnecessary, unjustified and counterproductive,” said MD Rico Basson.   

“We know and have clear evidence that the restriction of legal trade in wine and other liquor products fuels the growth of the illicit market. Illicit trade currently represents 22% of the total local liquor consumption and has grown significantly since 2020. Because this illicit market is outside the regulatory reach of government and operates uncontrolled, it may have a devastating effect on communities from a health and socio-economic perspective,” he said.

A national ban on wine sales would have “dire consequences” for the country’s wine industry, he added. 

“We need to make and implement decisions that balance preserving both lives and livelihoods. Decisions should be made at a provincial level, based on scientific evidence and according to the infection rate and hospital admissions across these provinces.”

Basson also reiterated how the wine industry had proactively implemented preventative measures to protect employees and visitors to farms, as well as the industry’s 533 wineries. 

“We therefore urge government to keep our industry open and apply interventions in certain hotspots.” 

It was also time for government to step up and “properly police” non-compliance with Covid-19 regulations, he said. 

“It certainly does not help to impose harsh restrictions every time the health care system is experiencing a crisis, while regulations are not enforced. Government also needs to accelerate the vaccination roll-out, as these two measures are the first line of defence in a pandemic such as this.”

In April, Vinpro announced that its legal challenge against South Africa’s national government, according to which it is contesting specific aspects of decision-making in respect of liquor bans, had been postponed to August 2021.