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Another threat to SA wine

All alcohol sales in South Africa (SA) have been banned for most of this year. Exports sales have been keeping wineries going.

Now there is a threat on the horizon to them from the EU. The EU is SAs major export market and SA can export wines to the EU without duty being charged. But this is a reciprocal agreement in which the EU exports spirits in return.

But since those spirits cannot be sold in SA, EU spirit producers are questioning whether the treaty terms are being met, and warning SA

“to cancel alcohol prohibition quickly or risk devastating consequences at home and abroad.”

Story here: https://news.wine.co.za/news.aspx?NEWSID=36782


Very interesting. I was surprised that the EU was the biggest market, believing wine producing countries in the EU to very parochial in their wine buying habits.

I found this graphic from 2018 on a Decanter page. So the EU countries involved are, unsurprisingly, UK (soon not to be EU, but let’s not go there) followed by Germany, Netherlands and Sweden. I can see the loss of those Nordic sales will put a huge dent in their exports. Maybe time for the UK to do a trade deal with SA to help them and us out.

Deplorable attitude from EU of course. How about, ‘how can we help‘?


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The Netherlands has a long history with SA and both Dutch and Germans are comfortable with Afrikaans, so many SA wines are on sale there with names and labels not seen in the UK.

So it’s no surprise to me they are major importers.

I am not sure I agree the EU attitude is - or would be* - deplorable as all trade agreements need to be honoured by both sides. SA’s ban on sale of alcohol is a decision by SA central government and the ban is not only affecting SA wineries/breweries/distilleries but also European spirit makers, including Scotch whisky.

No wonder European spirit producers feel aggrieved when they see SA wines taking advantage of a deal while they cannot.

*AFAIK the EU hasn’t made any decision yet, the story linked to says the organisation of EU spirit producers are raising the question.


That’s a fair point about honouring trade agreements. It was the way it was phrased in the quote you pasted that I found deplorable. One can be firm without being threatening, and try to work together to find a solution. Not knowing SA at all I have no idea if the ban on alcohol sales is unjustified or a sound way to discourage the kind of behaviour that encourages the passing on of the virus. I believe SA is struggling with its infection rate.

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I’m not entirely sure whether the UK spirits industry really needs to get involved. We have the most punitive import tariffs (in terms of Duty) in the whole EU. I’d be flabbergasted if the Exchequer relinquished that income outside of the EU, particularly because the domestic producers then really would be up in arms if they did.

I’m also not convinced that SA represents a particularly or potentially lucrative export market for them. I’m sure Scotch Whisky producers would probably prefer HM Government to just do the obvious and protect their huge export sales to the EU and US.

Notwithstanding, my sympathies go to the SA producers who have seemingly been hung out to dry by their own government.

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Do trade deals have to be like for like? Wine for wine or other alcohol? Or could it be wine for something else?

Of more importance is the trading relations that swirl around it. The influence of the EU will be felt in a UK-SA trade deal, not least because SA’s biggest trading partner is the EU. There’ll be no benefit to either SA (because it wouldn’t want to harm relations in it’s biggest market) and the UK (because SA is such a small market) to hastily cobble together a trade deal that either party will have cause to regret when the bigger fish come up for frying.

Equally, with it’s love of headlines above substance, I have no doubt that the current shambles of a government would shoot first and ask questions later on a deal like that just to say it had done one. One we would all have plenty of time to regret.

But we’re digressing here. SA winemakers have been treated disgracefully by their own government. I doubt given that treatment, they’ll be much bothered about the (entirely predictable) potential response of it’s biggest export market.

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A beautiful but tragic short film on what is happening in SA wine right now: https://youtu.be/utChGcAB9rw

Hang on a minute Its not the EU thats pressing this issue its the “spirit producers” in the EU that “are questioning whether the treaty terms are being met, and warning SA…”

Also a treaty is a legal document.

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Looks like the total ban has been lifted. Alcohol sales now ok 9-5 and onsite sales until 10pm. Welcome news no doubt for SA winemakers.


Great news, @Brocklehurstj !

Though it seems retail sales will be allowed only Mon - Thursday, starting Tuesday.

But restaurants can sell alcohol again for on-consumption up to 22:00 (I don’t understand that, as the curfew starts at 22:00 so surely if one is dining out, one has to leave in time to get home. Though I suppose guests dining in the hotel they are staying in are OK.)

It’s not clear whether wineries are limited to those days for off-sales too. (In the past wineries were allowed to sell wine on Sundays when it wasn’t allowed for retail outlets)