Farm workers at the Thokozani/Diemersfontein Wine Estate during a previous harvest. Picture: Supplied
Farm workers at the Thokozani/Diemersfontein Wine Estate during a previous harvest. Picture: Supplied

Black wine farmers say alcohol ban will lead to unemployment

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Jul 14, 2021

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Cape Town - Black wine farmers and their workers in the Western Cape said they fear that if the government does not backtrack and adapt the current blanket alcohol ban they will be forced to add to the country’s unemployment statistics.

Respondents in a survey by Vinpro said that if the ban continues for another four weeks after the current 14 day extension announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, black-owned brands and farms will only be able to fund 31% of their payroll, leaving more than two thirds of their staff without an income.

South African Wine Industry Transformation Unit (SAWITU) operations manager Wendy Petersen said: “Black-owned brands and farms have worked hard over the years to stay abreast and try to be sustainable in an ever challenging industry.

“The recent ban on alcohol sales has deteriorated this situation and we are unsure if these enterprises will survive the next month.”

Thokozani/Diemersfontein wine and country estate farm worker Phillida Daniels said: “There is no income. I’m one of those proud parents that can say that I don't rely on the government for a grant from Sassa. I work and I’m proud to be able to say that. I’m urging the president to please consider lifting the alcohol ban.”

Thokozani/Diemersfontein wine and country estate farm worker Phillida Daniels. Picture: Supplied

The estate’s managing director Denise Stubbs said: “We don’t sell booze, we sell an agricultural product. We have a backlog on this farm of wines in tanks. We have about 90,000 litres of wine in bulk, in tanks, that we still need to distribute and sell. It needs to be bottled and to go onto the shelves.

“The sad reality is that we don’t have a clue about how we are going to solve the overstock in our cellars currently. Ninety percent of our sales are local. Our wines are at all the supermarkets in South Africa and they can’t trade,” Stubbs said.

“And worse yet, what’s going to happen when the government eventually opens up the industry, is that the retailers will eventually cut the costs on our wine sales.”

100% black and female owned PaardenKloof Estate’s owner Daphné Neethling said: “Almost 99% of our sales and income is dependent on the local tourism market, our own restaurants, wine tasting rooms and our wine club. Lockdown has reduced this income to zero, due to liquor and restaurant restrictions.”

Agriculture standing committee chairperson Andricus van der Westhuizen (DA) urged the national government to allow wine farms to conduct tasting and the transportation of wine in limited quantities, for example, through safe online deliveries.

“The president has on many occasions highlighted his government's plans for a more equitable, inclusive economy post Covid-19. But it is the very action of a blanket alcohol ban which threatens to halt any efforts for transformation in this industry given that black emerging wine farmers receive around 64% of their revenue from local sales.”

ANC provincial agriculture spokesperson Pat Marran said: “The government also loses vast sums of tax income and pays in other ways to support the industry during these short bursts of bans and regulations.”

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Cape Argus

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