The ongoing battle of the booze ban: Vinpro to approach WC High Court to save local wine industry

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Non-profit organisation Vinpro says that it will approach the High Court following the impact that the third alcohol ban has had on the South African wine industry. 

Vinpro says that planning and devising contingency plans have been difficult due to the government not being fully transparent on why alcohol is continuously banned nor any explanation or clarity on a timeline for this ban to be reviewed.

“Furthermore, with the 2021 harvest commencing this week, the industry now has more than 640 million litres of stock of which 300 million is uncontracted. This poses a material risk of insufficient processing and storage capacity for the new harvest and threatens the sustainability of the wine industry,” MD Rico Basson says.

The organisation suggests a “flexible, nimble” approach where the provincial executive should manage the retail sale of alcohol as they are usually responsible for the regulation of liquor sales and managing provincial healthcare services.

“Urgent interim relief will be sought which would afford the Premier of the Western Cape the power to adopt deviations to enable off- and on-consumption sale of liquor in the province. Ultimately similar relief will be sought in respect of other provinces,” Vinpro says.

Vinpro says that the liquor ban in the Western Cape is no longer justified due to the bigger drops in new Covid-19 infections, active cases and hospital admissions.

Support for wine sector and job loss recovery in WC

Provincial Minister for Agriculture, Ivan Meyer, says that he has written to National Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, Thoko Didiza to allow for wine sales using a “differentiated approach”.

“Wine grapes represent 50,3% of the 181 233 ha under fruit production in the Western Cape Province. The replacement value of these wine grapes amounts to R33,94 billion. Wine is the third biggest export product of the Western Cape economy and contributes 6,5% to the value of exports from the Province,” Meyer says.

The Department estimates that 45 610 people work in the industry’s primary production side and supports the livelihoods of 228 053 people.

The Provincial Minister says that even when Level 3 regulations allowed for the domestic trade of wine, sales did not return to its usual levels. This has led to the loss of a quarter of the annual sales and has created further cash flow problems for producers.

Meyer has asked for the regulations to be amended as follows:

  • Alcohol sales be permitted offsite from Monday to Thursday, and not permitted on the weekend;
  • Alcohol sales be permitted at wine farms on the weekend, as this is the time when most visitors come to wine farms. Such sales are critical for the survival of wine tourism in the Western Cape; and
  • Onsite alcohol consumption be allowed. If restaurants cannot sell alcohol with dinner service, they will not remain profitable and will be forced to close. This will result in many job losses.

Vinpro says that if the liquor ban is still in place by 5 February, they will head to the Western Cape High Court to invalidate the ban by Minister Dlamini-Zuma in the province with immediate effect.

The alcohol ban continues to be a contentious subject in South Africa and VK decided to do a poll and ask the public what they think. Almost 16 000 people participated in the poll and here’s what they think:

Picture: @vanniekaap, Instagram