Wine exports have increased by more than 100 million litres – or 47 percent – in the first seven months of this year compared with the same period last year.

According to the chief executive of Wines of South Africa, Su Birch, there are several factors for this increase in exports to foreign markets. “The weakness of the rand is very significant,” said Birch. It made local products more attractive.

Also the northern hemisphere’s harvest was poor this year. It had rained all summer in Europe, which affected the harvest.

“The grapes were damaged and didn’t ripen properly.”

Birch said South Africa had a lot of wine to sell this year. “We were very lucky with that.”

South Africa exports packaged wine as well as in bulk. “Some of the wine gets exported and sold as South African bottled wine and some is sold in bulk.”

Exports to China and Japan had increased. “There was a substantial increase in exports to China of up to 27 percent.” However, the Asian market was still relatively small compared with the biggest market – the UK.

As well as China there had been an 8 percent increase to the US and an increase of 15 percent to Nigeria.

According to Birch, the industry is looking to get into the African markets, which usually bought cheaper wine from South America or Europe.

They were also targeting the US market. “We believe the US will be stronger for the medium term.”

Birch said there was a noticeable trend in the past 10 years of farmers selling wine directly from their farms. “A lot of wineries have developed their own brand instead of working with a co-op. That’s a strong trend and it is very positive. It is much more profitable to sell wine off your own farm.”

South Africa’s top destinations for packaged and bulk wine over the past seven months were the UK, Germany, Russia, France and Sweden. This included 156 million litres of white wine, 112 million litres of red wine, 47 million of rosé and 3.5 million of sparkling wine. - Cadet News Agency