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Viticultural work listed as ‘essential’ in South Africa

South African wineries will be allowed to finish the 2020 harvest and work in their cellars after winemaking processes were deemed “essential” right before a lockdown came into effect in the country.

The South African wine industry was facing the possibility that any unharvested fruit in the vineyards and even cellar work would have to be left once a lockdown came into effect today (27 March) because the industry was not listed as “essential” by the government.

Last minute advocacy work by industry bodies such as Vinpro and the SALBA however has led to the last minute inclusion of viticultural work and workers in essential services.

A Government Gazette published yesterday evening (26 March) added “harvesting and storage activities” as “essential to prevent the wastage of primary agricultural goods”.

Christo Conrad, manager of wine cellars at Vinpro, said: “Our interpretation of this amendment is that the wine industry would be allowed to complete the harvest and also the necessary cellar processes to ensure that the crop is not ‘wasted’. Agri-workers that are required to harvest grapes and/or to operate as cellar workers, will be considered essential workers, during the lockdown period.

“We’re truly very grateful for this outcome and it give us the necessary peace of mind on day one of #lockdown, on a Friday right before the weekend. It will allow agri-workers to work optimally and bring in the last of the harvest.

“We would like to once again make a friendly, yet serious request, to everyone to continue to act responsibly. Against the background of a global crisis, which has already taken on traumatic proportions, and may not have manifested itself as a reality in our midst, to implement and execute this permit with due diligence. This applies specifically to each member of your team and to lead and manage the number of people who must work with the necessary judgment and consideration.”

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