Up to 40k wine industry farmworkers stand to be affected by lockdown regulations

Vinpro's Rico Basson said the wine industry lost R200 million a week on exports due to the revised lockdown regulations; and that the move had huge financial repercussions on the sector.

FILE: Vinpro members say, international competitors, who were allowed to do business, could now simply take over their spot in the market. Picture: EWN.

CAPE TOWN – Non-profit company Vinpro said the financial strain on wine farmers was increasing because of the ban on wine exports.

On Tuesday, the wine industry representative body said South Africa was the only wine-producing country not allowed to export under current COVID-19 lockdown regulations.

Vinpro members say international competitors, who were allowed to do business, could now simply take over their spot in the market.

Under the initial lockdown phase, farmers could harvest and produce wine for export.

Government last week reversed this provision and banned the transportation of alcohol unless destined for the production of hand sanitisers or industrial use.

Vinpro managing director Rico Basson said the move had huge financial repercussions for the sector.

“We lose R200 million a week on exports. We have 40,000 farmworkers who have three to four dependents, that makes 160,000 people, that a lot of the producers are still paying because they are permanent.”

He said they had requested an extension on the payment of excise tax to curb current and forecasted cash flow struggles.

“The industry pays over R7 billion in excise tax, without cash flow you can’t afford that payment. We are already talking to commercial banks to see how we can mitigate that situation, but without cash flow that is difficult.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to outline additional economic and social relief measures as part of government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.