The South African wine industry is bracing itself for the smallest harvest in more than a decade. Pic by Tony Gentile (Reuters)

JOHANNESBURG - The South African wine industry is bracing itself for the smallest harvest in more than a decade as the drought and water shortages in the Western Cape threatens farms and wineries that employ thousands of seasonal workers. 

Francois Viljoen, consultation service manager for the wine industry organisation VinPro, said the drought conditions that have rocked province for the third consecutive season will have a major effect on the 2018 harvest.

“Most of the industry’s large irrigation dams are 30 percent to 40 percent full. 

“This means that wine grape producers’ water resources were cut by 40 percent and 60 percent and they could not fully meet their vines’ water demand,” he said.
Viljoen also indicated that widespread frost damage at the end of September and beginning of October will result in large crop losses in certain areas in the Orange River, Breedekloof, Worcester and Robertson wine regions.

“Despite the fact that the 2018 harvest might be much smaller, vineyards are in a very good condition due to frequent rainfall in October and November, as well as cooler weather up to the end of November... The low dam levels and insufficient water resources are most likely to have the greatest determinant of a smaller 2018 harvest.”

Viljoen echoes a survey by the industry body SA Wine Industry Information and Systems (Sawis),  released last month which reported that wineries and viticulturists were predicting a much smaller crop next year compared to this year, and possibly the smallest since 2005.

Rico Basson, managing director at VinPro, feared  that seasonal employment opportunities will be cut significantly because of smaller harvest which will have a negative effect on the socio-economic prosperity of wine industry communities with the Olifants River region the most likely to be affected worst by this.

“However, South Africa is not the only wine producing country expecting a smaller harvest. The yields of France, Italy, Spain and California were also under pressure from natural phenomena and this, combined with a greater demand, is set to lead to a wine shortage in specific categories worldwide,” said Basson.

Meanwhile, in response to the drought Western Cape  homeowners and developers have been encouraged to relook at the way they incorporate the ‘green factor’ into their homes.  

Mike Greeff, chief executive of Greeff Christie’s International Real Estate has advised developers to include water-saving trends in their designs.

He said with the Western Cape experiencing one of its driest periods, the property sector is evolving and while there are few indications that the current weather conditions are adversely affecting property prices, research shows that future buyers will be willing to pay higher prices for energy efficient homes.

“The inclusion of energy and water saving devices into home design ultimately changes the way we see our homes.”

Greeff added that in recent months the property firm has seen a significant increase in the sale and appeal of homes with boreholes and automated systems.
“Potential homeowners and investors are on the lookout for homes with suitable green features as it not only makes their home living experience hassle-free in dealing with the current climate, but also adds value to the home in the event of a future resale. 

“While our current drought status may not be an everlasting issue, energy-efficient homes certainly will be.”

- BUSINESS REPORT