Lift weekend ban on wine sales, Agri SA calls on govt

Buying sparkling wine at the Liquor City in Karaglen, Edenvale, 18 August 2020 on the first day that liquor and tobacco sales are allowed after moving to level 2 of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Neil McCartney

‘This draconic measure has an extremely negative impact on the financial sustainability of wine farms which attract a large number of visitors and tourists, particularly over weekends,’ Agri SA said.

While Agri SA has welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that the national Covid-19 lockdown will move from Level 2 to Level 1 next week, it has sent out a plea to lift the ban on wine sales over weekends, as it “makes no sense”.

The reopening of all economic sectors will contribute to much-needed economic growth. For this reason, the ban on the sale of wine in stores and on wine farms, especially over weekends, makes no sense, Agri SA said in a statement.

“This draconic measure has an extremely negative impact on the financial sustainability of wine farms which attract a large number of visitors and tourists, particularly over weekends,” Agri SA said.

“The wine sector is a major contributor to domestic and international tourism in South Africa. We appreciate that tourism is regarded as a sector that can promote economic recovery. Relaxation of the rules for consumption on the premises, as well as indoor and outdoor events, should unlock opportunities for our sector to recover,” said Rico Basson, managing director of VinPro.

The continued restrictions on sales for home consumption over weekends according to the direct Covid protocol are disappointing for the 530 wine cellars which rely on direct sales from cellar doors for home consumption, Agri SA said.

“This comes during a time when the wine industry, with a significant number of small and medium enterprises, is in dire need of economic recovery, job retention and growth.”

Agri SA echoed the misgivings expressed by VinPro in this regard, namely that wine farms rely on direct sales from cellars for home consumption and that the industry is being denied an opportunity to recover economically.

“South Africa must now use every opportunity for economic recovery and to get those industries brought to their knees by the stringent Covid restrictions back on track,” said Christo van der Rheede, deputy executive director of Agri SA.

The tourism industry needs all the support it can get. This includes wine farms and related wine-tasting and wine sales, which are particularly popular over weekends, the statement said.

“Since it forms an integral part of the local tourism industry, wine sales for home consumption should no longer be prohibited over weekends.

“There is no rational argument for extending the ban,” Agri SA concluded.

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