South Africa’s grape growers succumb when big importers demand too low prices

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We have just returned from this year’s wine tour in South Africa and as usual we have tasted fantastic wines that show the ambition that exists in the country.

But we should not forget the difficulties facing the South African wine industry. A large number of the country’s grape growers struggle financially and have a hard time to make end meets. According to South African Businesslive, only 28% of the grape growers made a profit in 2019, which is a much higher figure than 2015, when it was only 15%. So, it is positive development but still a far too low figure.

The vineyard area will continue to decline, some people believe, with as much as up to 7000 hectares before it stabilizes. We talked to Van Zyl de Toit, winemaker at Allée Bleue in Franschhoek, and he also emphasized this. “The wine area is decreasing, many growers are pulling out their vines and start to grow fruit and vegetables instead, it is much more profitable.”

He also believes that importers, the Scandinavian monopolies not least, must stop demanding too low prices and instead be prepared to pay sustainable prices for South African wines. For most producers it is virtually impossible to achieve profitability with the low prices the monopolies (and some other big buyers) ask for in the invitation to tenders. And without profitability one cannot invest in better quality and cannot improve the working conditions of vineyard employees. In other words, there is a big contradiction between the low prices asked for by the monopolies (and other big buyers) and the campaign demands they raise on the wineries to improve workers’ conditions.

Read more: businesslive

Travel: Travel to South Africa’s wine lands with BKWine.

Vineyards in Franschhoek, South Africa
Vineyards in Franschhoek, South Africa, copyright BKWine Photography

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