SA produce, wine exporters fear lockdown losses
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Chief executive of Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa (CGA) Justin Chadwick said: “Last year the Western cape exported 13.3 million 15kg cartons of citrus fruit, and for 2020 we estimate sales of 15.7 million of these 15kg cartons. However, we acknowledge that these unprecedented times could threaten business continuity.”
To address these fears, CGA has established a Covid-19 Response Committee (CRC),
Chadwick said: “The CRC met for the first time last week and identified a number of risks that could affect the current export season, including operational and efficiency issues at ports, ensuring the health and safety of workers, transporting of workers to farms and citrus to ports, the continuation of fruit inspection services, and the cost and availability of ships.”
Chief economist of the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa, Wandile Sihlobo, said: “The sub-sectors that are still in complete lockdown from a trading perspective are wool and mohair, cotton, tobacco, wine and alcoholic beverages, and floriculture (flowers), among others.
“Without trading, the farming businesses that have been adversely affected by lockdown restrictions could experience short-term cash flow challenges.”
Wine exporters are particularly worried, the communications manager of Wines of South Africa, Maryna Calow, said: “There was an initial exemption made by the government on April 7 to allow the transport of finished goods to harbours and airports for the purpose of export. This exemption was revoked in a government briefing on the April 16, once again bringing all exports to a halt in an industry which, on average, exports wine to the value of R175 million.
“The ban on the export of bulk and packaged wine raises a significant risk for the economic sustainability of this industry and, more importantly, the socio-economic stability of the rural communities where more than 40000 workers and their dependants are employed on grape farms and wineries,” said Calow.
Hout Bay Harbour Distillery’s Mike Schmidt said: “For us, this is a particularly devastating event, as we had only just received our registration when this pandemic hit.
“As a small business, we, like so many others, are facing a very uncertain future with absolutely no real assistance on offer from government.”
Distell’s corporate communications manager, Dennis Matsane, said: “Distell fully supports government efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The company is, however, disappointed with government’s decision to ban wine, brandy and cider exports, as this places more pressure on the local wine industry and also makes it difficult for South African wines to regain market share on the international front.”@MwangiGithahu