Home Opinion and Features SA wine industry writes open letter to President Ramaphosa

SA wine industry writes open letter to President Ramaphosa

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“The restriction on the sale of table wine is having a devastating impact on our industry and all of the many related ancillaries, transformation initiatives, community upliftment projects and jobs”

File picture: Thomas Holder

THE SOUTH African wine industry has written a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, detailing the damage being done by the ban to their industry and its transformation programmes.

In a recent Instagram post, the Institute of Cape Wine Masters pleaded with its followers to help them spread the word by sharing the open letter with as many people as they can.

This comes after people asked how they can help in the wake of the new liquor ban.

“Lots of people have asked how they can help in the wake of this new liquor ban since December 28. First, you can help us spread the word by sharing this post with as many people as you can.

“Let’s raise our voices, highlight the damage being done by the ban to our industry and its transformation programmes, and stand together in solidarity.

“Second, you can encourage family and friends overseas to buy South African wines,” they wrote.

Below is the open letter to President Ramaphosa.

Dear President Ramaphosa, in your statement on December 14, you acknowledged the vital role that registered wineries and wine farms play in the economy, society, and the tourism sector.

Thank you for highlighting the fact that the wine industry is different and requires a distinctive approach.

We proudly showcase our world-class wines, destinations, restaurants, accommodation facilities, and agricultural products to the world in a sophisticated and uniquely African way.

Our diverse offering includes the trendsetting agri-tourism initiatives of Stellenbosch Wine Routes; wine education and wine cultural promotions via the Institute of Cape Wine Masters and the Cape Wine Academy; the transformational and educational bursary programmes of the Cape Winemakers Guild and its Development Trust; and the philanthropic educational projects of the Cape Wine Auction Trust.

South Africa is a world leader in wine agri-tourism and it has inspired many countries, including Australia, to follow in our footsteps.

Stellenbosch Wine Routes will be celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Founded in 1971, this pioneering and innovative body is one of the renowned regional wine tourism organisations in the world.

Between the exceptional natural beauty of our Winelands and our wonderful South African hospitality, we now have over 20 wine routes offering diverse and aspirational experiences and destinations.

The Institute of Cape Wine Masters with the Cape Wine Academy have advanced wine education for almost 40 years, educating more than 200,000 students since its inception, and promoting an inclusive and responsible wine consumption culture around South African products.

The Cape Winemakers Guild, which established the Cape Winemakers Guild Development Trust in 1999, remains committed to real and meaningful transformation and education.

The Cape Winemakers Guild Development Trust has been able to provide 40 bursaries for promising final year students at Elsenburg College and Stellenbosch University between 2009 and 2020 and has funded the training of 2,564 cellar employees to further their skill set in the winery.

As part of the Cape Winemakers Guild Development Trust, the Protégé Programme’s core focus is to transform the face of South African winemaking to reflect our demographic diversity.

To date 24 of the Protégé graduates have lead, supportive, and award-winning winemaking positions in the industry.

This is all funded through the sale of bottled premium table wine and generous donations from the members of the guild.

In 2014, The Cape Wine Auction Trust was established to support education in the Winelands by raising money through hosting the Cape Wine Auction – in celebration of South Africa’s wine lifestyle offering and uniting the industry around a common philanthropic goal: quality education for all in the Cape Winelands.

Over R100 million has been raised to facilitate programmes, with 100% of all proceeds going to the partner organisations funded. Each year more than 20 partner organisations are funded.

These include not only disadvantaged schools but also feeding programmes, psycho-social support, principal training, sport, and school after-care programmes.

All organisations pass stringent due diligence processes and provide two impact reports per funding cycle.

A committed board of trustees, under the Chairmanship of Raymond Ndlovu, ensures that each rand is accounted for. Some examples of annual impact include the provision of over 300,000 school meals, psycho-social therapy for almost 5,000 learners, and additional literacy support for more than 7,000 primary school children.

Mr President, the South African wine industry plays a vital role as an employer in the agricultural and food sectors, but also throughout the value chain creating more than 265,000 jobs: affecting sommeliers, wine farm representatives, suppliers, restaurant, retail, and tasting room staff, wine educators, garagistes, wine journalists and media workers – and all their families and dependants.

We contribute more than R55 billion or 1.1% to the GDP of South Africa and ensure a positive effect on the balance of payments through significant exports. In various rural economies, the wine sector is the backbone of communities and towns.

Due to persistent hard work and innovation within the diverse wine landscape, South Africa has been recognised for our premium table wines and we have consistently garnered an increased share of the local and global food table.

However, the restriction on the sale of table wine is having a devastating impact on our industry and all of the many related ancillaries, transformation initiatives, community upliftment projects, and jobs.

Whilst we acknowledge the distressing consequences of this rising wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and the critical availability of hospital beds, we implore you to work with us to explore alternative mechanisms, for which there are precedents, to reinvigorate our industry.

We are on the brink of harvest 2021 with a significant amount of unsold stock which runs the risk of going to waste and destroying significant amounts of economic value.

We urge you to engage with us and lift the ban on our products immediately.

This pandemic has highlighted the role we can play to further educate the public to become responsible wine consumers and we hereby volunteer our services to be committed ambassadors for our beloved country.

The open letter was written jointly by Jacques Steyn CWM of the Institute of Cape Wine Masters Chair, Heidi Duminy CWM, who is the principal of the Cape Wine Academy, Andrea Mullineux who is the chair of the Cape Winemakers Guild, and Raymond Ndlovu, who is the chair of The Cape Wine Auction Trust.