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Pressure mounts on South African government to allow booze sales

The government of South Africa has come under pressure from one of its regional governments to ease the ban on alcohol sales in order to avoid mass unemployment.


The provincial governor of the Western Cape, which covers the vast majority of the country’s winegrowing regions, said domestic sales should resume in order to reduce the impact of “a second, equally dangerous pandemic: unemployment”.

According to a report in the Sunday Times South Africa, the region’s premier Alan Winde argued that the ban, which was in place for nine weeks from the 26 March, before being reintroduced in mid-July, was being felt across the tourism and hospitality sector as well as the agricultural and farming communities in the region.

He argued that restaurants were reliant on alcohol sales to remain profitable.

“If properly licensed establishments are not allowed to sell alcohol on site, they will not be able to remain financially viable,” he is reported as saying, pointing out that pressure on the healthcare system had eased and Covid-related hospitalisations had dropped to their lowest levels since June.

The move comes nearly a month after the South African government reinstated its controversial ban on domestic alcohol sales, after arguing that the resumption of alcohol sales after a nine-week lockdown had resulted in “substantial pressure being put on hospitals, including trauma and ICU units, due to motor vehicle accidents, violence and related trauma”.

The ban was reintroduced in order to free-up hospital beds occupied by those suffering from alcohol-related traumas, President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the time.

However it has been reported that the industry lost around R18 billion in revenue (£852.8 million) as a result of the original ban, and R3.4 billion (£142.1m) in excise tax.

As previously reported by the drinks business, the South African wine industry body VinPro estimated that the wine industry alone has suffered direct losses of R3 billion (£142.1m) and around 18,000 jobs (out of a total of 300,000) in the South African wine industry, and almost 80 wineries and 350 grape growers were at risk following the export and sales disruption of the first ban.

Although exports are not directly impacted by the ban, Wines of South Africa said at the time that producers were being affected “by reduced logistics at ports and adverse weather”.

The winelands of the Western Cape stretch 185 mile from Cape Town to the mouth of the Olifants River in the north, and 220 miles to Mossel Bay in the east and include Stellenbosch, Elgin, Franschhoek and Paarl.

Several initiatives have been launched to support the South African wine industy in recent months, including a group of South African wine businesses creating a direct-to-consumer platform to help raise exports, led by winemakers Bruce Jack and Ross Sleet while domestic alcohol sales are banned, a campaign by UK importer and distributor Ellis Wines, while UK grocer Waitrose launched a limited edition curated case of wines with a 25% discount for its customers to support the South African wine industry.

Click here for db’s own list of how you can help support South Africa’s wine industry.

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