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Table mountain in Capetown (Photo: Brent Ninaber on Unsplash)
09 April 2020

Breweries and wineries under lockdown in South Africa

South Africa | The nation entered into lockdown on 27 March 2020. All are expected to stay at home for three weeks while breweries are shut down.

How day-to-day life will work out remains to be seen, as the government scrambles to deal with the logistics of implementing the new restrictions.

What we know, so far, about South Africa's lockdown is this: You can buy coke and chips, but no cigarettes or alcohol. Breweries were forced to shutter and send their people home. The transport of alcohol is also forbidden.

Vintners hit hard

Initially, grape harvesting and cellar processes were prohibited. But after protests from vintners, the government gave in and said that the wine industry would be allowed to complete harvesting and cellar work, for as long as the necessary hygiene and safety of workers are maintained.

However, the export of wine, while not expressly forbidden, is hitting a wall because of the ban on the transport of alcohol.

The famous wine estate Klein Constantia, 20 km south of Cape Town, is currently under lockdown (Photo: Klein Constantia, Wines of South Africa)

Grape harvesting started in January, and the local industry got ready to go and showcase what it has to offer at the trade show ProWein in Germany in March. Media say, vintners were confident that ProWein 2020 would be a game changer after wine exports declined by about 30 percent in 2019.

Exports wiped out

However, the trade fair had to be cancelled due covid-19 spreading in Europe. Then wine exports to China stopped, to be followed by orders from Europe also suddenly dropping off.

Exports represent 60 percent of South Africa’s wine production. Among global wine exporters, South Africa ranked 12th in 2019, with exports valued at nearly USD 800 million.

Domestically, the wine industry provides about 290 000 jobs, many of them seasonal. Fortunately, since the harvest is nearing its end, most of the casual labourers would have already received their wages.

Read more: South Africa’s craft brewers fear covid-19 more than Big Brewers