It’s D-Day for lifting South Africa’s alcohol ban: industry body

The question of whether local liquor sales will be opened up this month, will be a make-or-break decision for the industry, says wine body Vinpro.

The group says that the matter will likely be addressed when the current advanced alert level 3 is re-evaluated around 15 August, when the current state of disaster period comes to an end. The state of disaster is expected to be extended by another month.

Vinpro said the initial nine-week ban on local sales, and five-week ban on exports will result in more than 80 wineries and 350 wine grape producers going out of business, with a potential loss of more than 21,000 jobs across the value-chain over the next 18 months which may escalate significantly following the second ban.

Rico Basson, managing director of Vinpro, says the industry understands that the current situation remains extremely complex, but because of the decline in the infection rate in the Western Cape and other provinces, increased capacity at hospitals, and agreed upon proposals, there is absolutely no reason to keep the current ban on wines sales in place.

“Enough is enough. If you think about it rationally, the ban doesn’t make sense anymore. We have done our utmost to save lives, however, the time has come to now save the livelihoods of the people who work in and depend on the South African wine industry.”

Basson added that the country’s wine industry was currently in dire straits due to the ban and lockdown.

“The South African wine industry, including wine tourism, is in a state of disaster. Urgent intervention is needed or else one of the oldest agricultural industries in the country will not survive,” Basson said.

“Many wine businesses have already closed down due to the previous and current trade restrictions, and the rest of the industry will simply not survive a continued alcohol ban, leaving tens of thousands of employees without any income, possibilities or hope.”

Basson said that the wine industry has geared itself to reopen domestic trade and distribution with all necessary health and safety regulations in place, while focusing on changing behaviour with regard to responsible production, promotion, trade and consumption.

While many view legal action as the most effective means to reopen trade, Basson said that Vinpro believes that the most urgent and productive discussions affecting policy in the short, medium and long-term are taking place at a high level directly with government, business, labour and civil society through the Nedlac forum.

“That is why Vinpro, together with the rest of the alcohol industry, has been working towards establishing a new social compact which positions short-, medium- and long-term solutions and targeted interventions to the societal challenges linked to alcohol abuse and its impact on the health sector.

“As the custodians of the South African wine industry, we strive towards securing the future of our industry for generations to come. We therefore choose to work with government on solutions that will stabilise the sector right now, rebuild it in the medium term and grow the industry in the long run.”

Read: Gauteng is ready for a lighter lockdown – but it must happen slowly, expert warns

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It’s D-Day for lifting South Africa’s alcohol ban: industry body