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South African wine exports face challenges at port terminals

Published:  23 June, 2021

New plans to make the South Africa’s Cape Town Port more efficient have been welcomed by Vinpro, the non-profit company which represents almost 2,600 South African wine producers, cellars and industry stakeholders.

Vinpro said the Cape Town port was of strategic importance to the wine industry and is one of the busiest international shipping routes, with concern having been raised about the status of South Africa’s port terminals as an obstacle to economic recovery during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Vinpro has welcomed news that president Ramaphosa has announced that the national port authority will become an independent affiliate. This would entail a clear separation between the roles of the infrastructure owner, the Transnet national port authority, the terminal’s management and Transnet's port terminals. 

The organisation said that for the wine industry to recover and grow, it was important in the short term that operational activities at the port should remain as optimal and efficient as possible. 

It added that a lack of equipment and manpower, delays due to bad weather, congestion as a result of inefficiencies and the fact that container vessels are passing the port as it is not functioning optimally are some of the strategic challenges that are facing exports of South African wine. 

South African wine exports represent almost half of its total production and amounted to 330.2 million litres in the year ended 28 February 2021, representing a 6% growth in volume year-on-year. 

Of these exports, 41% are packaged wine and 59% bulk wine. The UK, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA and Sweden are the top five markets for South African wine, with a total export value of approximately R9bn, the second highest of any South African agricultural product.

VinproMD Rico Basson said he was “especially optimistic” that the revenue that will be generated from this move would be utilised to reinvest in the port infrastructure. 

“However, the wine industry is still experiencing various operational challenges at the Cape Town port – not only with exports, but also the import and unloading of packaging materials such as wine bottles for the current season,” Basson said. 

“We cannot afford any delay as it would have a ripple effect on the distribution of the 2021 harvest, as well as the export of wine, which especially has to be prioritised now during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer months.”

Recently, Vinpro 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 followed president Ramaphosa voicing his concern over the sudden and severe spike in positive Covid-19 cases and related deaths.